Local News

Third Indicted Lacrosse Player: 'I Am Absolutely Innocent'

Posted May 15, 2006
Updated January 7, 2007

— A Duke University lacrosse team captain indicted Monday by a grand jury said he and his two teammates are innocent of all charges stemming from allegations made by a woman who says she was raped and beaten by three members of the team.

A Durham County grand jury handed down the indictment of David "Dave" Forker Evans, 23, of Bethesda, Md., on first-degree rape, first-degree sexual offense and first-degree kidnapping.

A 27-year-old black student at nearby North Carolina Central University told police she was raped and beaten by three white men at a March 13 party, where she was hired to perform as a stripper.

"I am absolutely innocent of all the charges that were brought against me," said Evans, who was joined at a news conference on Monday by the other seniors on the lacrosse team before surrendering to Durham authorities. "These allegations are lies. Fabricated. And they will be proven wrong."

He was later released under a $400,000 bond.

Evans said he fully cooperated with police and that he and his roommates helped investigators find evidence in their house for nearly an hour.

He also went to the Durham Police Department and gave officers a statement without any attorneys present, as well as a DNA sample and access to his e-mail, Evans said. He also offered to take a polygraph test, but said that police investigators refused his offer.

"I fully cooperated with police and continue to cooperate with them," Evans said.

Evans said, over the past few weeks through his attorney, tried to talk to Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, but to no avail.

"Every member of the Duke lacrosse team is innocent. You have all been told some fantastic lies," Evans said. "I look forward to watching them unravel in the weeks to come -- and they already have in weeks past. The truth will come out."

Evans' attorney, Joe Cheshire, also said Monday that the alleged victim identified Evans in a photo lineup with "90 percent certainty," but that she was not 100 percent sure because he did not have a mustache.

"Mr. Nifong knows David Evans has never had a mustache," Cheshire said. "We have pictures of David Evans the day before, the day after and almost every other day, along with scores and scores of people's testimony that he never had a mustache."

Two players -- Reade Seligmann, 20, and Collin Finnerty, 19, -- were indicted and charged last month with rape, kidnapping and sexual assault.

In a statement released to the media late Monday afternoon, Nifong said he did not anticipate any further indictments in the case.

"At the outset of this investigation, I said that it was just as important to remove the clouds of suspicion from the members of the Duke University lacrosse team who were not involved in this assault as it was to identify the actual perpetrators," Nifong said. "For that reason, I believe it is important to state publicly today that none of the evidence that we have developed implicates any member of that team other than those three against whom indictments have been returned."

Defense attorneys representing members of the lacrosse team have insisted all the players are innocent, pointing to DNA tests they said found no conclusive match between the 46 players tested and the accuser.

A second set of DNA tests released to defense attorneys last week, Cheshire said, also did not match.

"(The) only single source male DNA was someone other than a Duke lacrosse player, and yet, Mr. Nifong has chose again, as he promised he would during his political campaign, a third lacrosse player," Cheshire said.

Cheshire said the DNA did not show any conclusive match, but did show that investigators were unable to exclude a match on one plastic fingernail in a trash can that contained numerous items of Evans' DNA.

Cheshire has complained in the past about Nifong's refusal to meet or communicate about the case.

Speaking to reporters outside the county jail, Cheshire said, "These boys have been chopped up in the process. They are victims. Their families are victims. This community is a victim and the justice system is a victim."

The allegations against the players have led to protests in Durham and have drawn criticism from national civil rights activists, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who said last month that his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition would pay the alleged victim's college tuition.

Duke canceled the rest of the lacrosse team's season and accepted the resignation of coach Mike Pressler. Duke President Richard Brodhead also initiated a series of internal investigations, one of which concluded administrators were slow to react to the scandal in part because of initial doubts about the accuser's credibility.

Last week, Evans lost a deal that would have kept him from being charged with old alcohol and noise violations after prosecutors said he had violated the terms of the agreement by hosting the party.

Prosecutors had agreed to defer prosecution for an August 2005 charge of having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle, and a January charge of violating the city's noise ordinance. The state had agreed to dismiss the charges if Evans completed community service, paid court costs and stayed out of trouble.

A judge reinstated the alcohol charge, Evans' attorney entered a responsible plea on his behalf, and he was fined $100.

A 5-foot-10, 190-pound defenseman, Evans went to high school at the private Landon School in suburban Washington, where he also played football and hockey and led the lacrosse team to a three-year record of 56-2. At Duke, he earned a place on the Atlantic Coast Conference's academic honor roll and started 19 of 20 games last season.

Rae Evans, his mother, is the chairwoman of the LPGA board of directors and founder of Evans Capitol Group, a lobbying firm.

Evans graduated on Sunday with a Bachelor of Arts degree. At the ceremony over the weekend, Provost Peter Lange blamed the "sad events and relentless media coverage" of the case for tarnishing the school's image.

Some graduates at commencement had Seligmann and Finnerty's jersey numbers written on their mortarboard caps. Seligmann is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.

There were 11 seniors on the Duke men's lacrosse roster, but it wasn't clear if they were among those at Sunday's ceremony.

In a news statement released on Monday afternoon, John Burness, Duke's senior vice president for public affairs, said:

"From the start, our campus and the Durham community have faced the challenge of balancing compassion with judgment. We all hope that the legal process will proceed to a speedy resolution so that everyone can know the truth."

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