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Police Report: Duke Accuser First Said Five Attackers, Four Dancers At Party

Posted June 23, 2006
Updated January 7, 2007

— A police officer who interviewed a woman who said she was raped by three Duke University men's lacrosse players described her as nervous and said her story changed several times, according to a police report released by a defense attorney Friday.

The report by Durham police Officer G.D. Sutton, dated in the early hours of March 14, also details several comments by the woman that conflict with a version of events presented by authorities, including the number of strippers at the party and number of men the woman says attacked her.

In affidavits filed by police, authorities said the accuser told police she was raped by three men at the March 13 team party where she was hired to perform as an exotic dancer with a second woman. District Attorney Mike Nifong won indictments against three players and has said they were the only ones implicated by the evidence.

But in Sutton's narrative, the woman said she was one of four dancers at the party and that she was attacked by five men.

The one-page narrative was included in the 536 pages of additional discovery evidence Nifong handed over to defense attorneys on Thursday.

Joseph Cheshire, who represents charged player David Evans, released the report after a confrontation with an investigator Thursday.

When Cheshire told reporters the accuser said she was sexually assaulted by five men, Linwood Wilson from the Durham County District Attorney's Office questioned him in front of the reporters.

Wilson asked Cheshire to supply the paperwork to support the claim.

Friday morning, Cheshire did. He also sent a letter to the district attorney's office with a police report attached.

Victims rights advocates say it's not uncommon for an assault victim to have trouble answering questions in the hours immediately after an attack, when they are often emotional and unable to focus on describing what has happened.

A Duke police officer described the accuser in the lacrosse case as "crying uncontrollably and visibly shaken" when speaking with her at a hospital hours after the party.

"Victims in these cases often may very well say something somewhat inconsistent immediately afterward and might still be telling the absolute truth," Stan Goldman, a Loyola Law School professor and former Los Angeles County public defender, told The Associated Press.

"But ... I've never seen a case go to trial with this many inconsistencies in the victim's sequence of events," he said.

Cheshire said Friday he plans to review more of the discovery file over the weekend and couldn't comment further on its contents.

Evans, 23, of Bethesda, Md.; Collin Finnerty, 19, of Garden City, N.Y.; and Reade Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J.; are charged with rape, kidnapping and sexual offense. All three were released on $400,000 bond, though a judge reduced Seligmann's bond to $100,000 during a hearing Thursday.

Attorneys for all three players have strongly proclaimed their clients' innocence. A trial isn't expected to begin before spring 2007 in the case.

The defense attorneys have declined requests from The Associated Press to view the complete contents of the discovery file. Instead, they have released bits and pieces in motions filed with the court. In many cases, what they have released appears to bolster their contention the accuser is not a credible witness.

Last week, Cheshire filed a motion that included information about the accuser telling a nurse she was assaulted by only two men. Last month, Duke released a campus police report in which a university officer said the woman initially told Durham police she had been raped by 20 men.

Sutton's report is the first in which there is a mention of more than two strippers at the party. A motion filed by Seligmann's attorneys included a statement made to police by Kim Roberts, the second stripper at the party, in which she called the rape charges a "crock" and said she was with the accuser for almost every moment of the party.

But because the defense has not released the entire discovery file, it not known exactly what evidence Nifong might have, and the prosecutor has given no indication he plans to drop the case.

"You kind of find it hard to believe that this case in this condition can find its way to trial unless the prosecution has something going for it that we just don't know," Goldman said. "That's the 64-dollar question. What does he have?"


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