Local News

Judge Says Duke Lacrosse Case Won't Be On Fast Track

Posted May 18, 2006
Updated January 7, 2007

— One of three Duke University lacrosse players charged with rape remained silent Thursday as he appeared in court for the first time, watching as his attorney asked the judge to move the case along quickly.

"We want a trial as fast as we can," said Kirk Osborn, the lead attorney for Duke sophomore Reade Seligmann. "This young kid wants to go to school in the fall and he can't until this is resolved."

A grand jury indicted Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J., and Collin Finnerty, 19, of Garden City, N.Y., last month on charges of rape, sexual offense and kidnapping involving a woman who had been hired to strip at a team party in March. A third player, co-captain David Evans, was indicted Monday on the same charges.

District Attorney Mike Nifong said at the end of Thursday's brief hearing he intended to try all three players together. The prosecutor has said he doesn't expect any trial to begin before next year, and Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Stephens gave no indication he would put the lacrosse case on a fast track.

"This case is not going to jump ahead of the line and be handled any differently," Stephens said.

He then set Seligmann's next appearance for the week of June 19.

Stephens declined to reduce Seligmann's bond from $400,000, rejecting Osborn's argument his client isn't a flight risk and calling the existing bond amount within court guidelines.

Seligmann entered the courthouse about 1:45 p.m., stoic in the face of television cameras and photographers.

He also endured taunts from members of the New Black Panther Party, one of whom repeatedly yelled, "Justice will be served, rapist." Duke police prevented members of the party from walking onto Duke's campus during a protest earlier this month.

Seligmann was not asked any questions during the 25-minute hearing in front of a packed courtroom, and did not speak. Most of Thursday's hearing dealt with defense access to the accuser's cell phone.

In court Thursday, Osborn asked the judge if a defense expert can examine evidence from a cell phone that the alleged victim had the night of the incident. Osborn said the phone was found outside of the home used by some members of the lacrosse team and brought inside. Police later took the phone and it is currently in police custody.

Nifong said prosecutors are not interested in the contents of the phone, such as the last 10 numbers called, but Osborn said that's information the defense should be allowed to see.

Stephens agreed, but said he wanted to review whatever information was retrieved from the phone before it was acted upon by lawyers for either side. He asked Nifong and Osborn to work out the details of charging the phone and having experts examine it.

"You two talk about how that be done -- that is if you can talk," Stephens said, hinting at the strained relationship between Nifong and defense lawyers in this case.

An expected discussion about discovery was made moot before the hearing when Nifong provided the defense with a copy of his entire case file. Nifong said the file included 1,278 pages of evidence, two VHS tapes and a compact disc containing photos.

"The state is not aware of any additional material or information which may be exculpatory in nature with respect to the defendant," Nifong wrote in a court filing.

A judge did grant Osborn's request to preserve the notes and records written by police officers involved in the case.

So far, Evans is the only member of the lacrosse team to speak publicly about the rape allegations, which he called "fantastic lies" before turning himself into police on Monday.

Finnerty's case has been postponed until next month. Evans will appear in court next week on an unrelated noise violation.

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