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Congressman Calls for DA Probe in Duke Rape Case

Posted December 12, 2006
Updated December 13, 2006

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— A congressman wants a federal investigation into Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong and the way he has handled a rape investigation involving three Duke University lacrosse players.

Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to review the case, having accused Nifong of making prejudicial statements to the media and telling police to violate identification procedures.

In a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Jones also highlighted the fact that Nifong has never spoken directly with the accuser, a 27-year-old exotic dancer, about the case.

Nifong had no comment on the matter Tuesday.

The woman, who is also a student at North Carolina Central University in Durham, said three men sexually assaulted her at an off-campus lacrosse party in March.

In April, two lacrosse players, Reade Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J., and Collin Finnerty, 20, of Garden City, N.Y., were indicted on charges of first-degree rape, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree sexual offense. A third lacrosse player, David Evans, 23, of Bethesda, Md., was indicted on the same charges a month later.

All three have maintained their innocence and have called the allegations lies.

Attorneys for the accused are scheduled to be in court again on Friday. That is when Nifong is expected to hand over more evidence in the case. He has already given the defense thousands of pages of documents.

A trial could begin as early as spring. When it does, it could be one of the longest in Durham County history because of the complexity of the case, in which there are three defendants and three sets of attorneys.

Attorneys for the defendants have admitted that because of the media attention the case has received, they are looking at the possibility of a change of venue, which has not happened in Durham for nearly 20 years.

"It's very difficult to get granted," said local defense attorney Joe Wilson, who is not connected to the case. "I think defense attorneys have to present overwhelming evidence."

Wilson said that community groups, not just the media, are also a factor because of how they might have an impact on the case, because they are vocal and have potential to influence jurors.

Nifong has said in recent months that he feels a Durham County jury should decide the case.
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