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Duke Invites Lacrosse Defendants to Return

Posted January 3, 2007
Updated January 4, 2007

— Two defendants in the Duke lacrosse case have been invited to return to Duke University as students in good standing, the university announced Wednesday.

“We have decided that the right and fair thing to do is to welcome back Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty to resume their studies at Duke for the spring semester," Duke University President Richard Brodhead said in a written statement released Wednesday afternoon.

Both students were barred from attending class last semester while their case made its way through court but were allowed to continue with their academic coursework.

The third defendant in the case, David Evans, 23, of Bethesda, Md., graduated from the university in May.

Larry Moneta, vice president of Student Affairs at Duke, said the university has no regrets looking back or moving forward, even though the criminal case is not resolved.

"I think we've been perfectly appropriate," he said. "Dr. Brodhead is very clear that the court activity should be separate from the university decision-making."

Brodhead went on to say in his statement that the validity of the remaining charges were in question.

"Although the students still face serious charges and larger issues require Duke’s collective attention, the circumstances in this case have changed substantially, and it is appropriate that the students have an opportunity to continue their education," Brodhead said.

But Kevin Finnerty told WRAL Wednesday evening that his son wants to get through the criminal process before returning to school.

"I think we're going to need to focus on the serious charges that still exist, and we'll need to leave ourselves the flexibility once we get a successful resolution," he said.

Collin Finnerty, 20, of Garden City, N.Y., Seligmann, 20, of Essex Falls, N.J., and Evans were indicted on charges of first-degree rape, first-degree sexual assault and first-degree kidnapping in connection with allegations that they raped an exotic dancer at a team party in March.

At a brief news conference Wednesday afternoon, Wade Smith, a Raleigh lawyer representing Finnerty, said the decision "speaks to Duke's integrity" and called it "a positive moment in a case that has seen so many negative moments.

"We're happy about this decision. We think it says good things about the direction of this investigation and good things about our client," Smith said. "We're not looking for apologies today. We're saying to Duke, 'You've done the right thing.'"

Seligmann's Charlotte attorney, James Cooney III, said that Seligmann and his parents are considering their options regarding Duke's offer.

"We are also glad that Duke University has now made it clear that Reade is welcome to return to the university and look forward to the day that he can return to living a normal life and continuing his education as a full-time student," the Seligmann family said in a statement.

Smith said he didn't know when Finnerty would return to Duke but that the student loved the university and his lacrosse teammates.

"When the time comes, Collin looks forward to continuing his education and rejoining the lacrosse team," he said.

Both Seligmann and Finnerty would be eligible to return to the lacrosse team, Duke spokesman Keith Lawrence said. The university could still punish them if they are convicted of any of the pending charges, Duke University Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta said in a memo to Brodhead recommending that the players be allowed to return.

“It’s a step forward, but because charges still exist, this remains a complex issue for the students and their families,” said John Danowski, Duke head lacrosse coach.

Teammates seem to feel no ambiguity about their colleagues.

“It's no secret how much we want them back. Not only are they good players, but we just miss them as great friends of ours,” said Casey Carroll, a senior and a defenseman on the lacrosse team.

"We're all ecstatic," assistant lacrosse coach Kevin Cassesse said. "I think it's a great statement from Brodhead and the university, and in my opinion, it was the right thing to do."

Last month, Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong dropped the rape charge against all three players after the accuser told an investigator that she could not testify with certainty that she was raped.

Wednesday's developments come one day after Nifong was sworn in to serve a four-year term. Defense lawyers have said Nifong pressed forward in the divisive case for political gain.

Nifong has been criticized for weaknesses in the case, including a lack of DNA evidence, an apparent alibi for Seligmann and the shaky credibility of the 28-year-old accuser.

Seligmann, Finnerty and Evans have maintained their innocence, with Evans calling the charges "fantastic lies" the day he was indicted in May. Their lawyers have called on Nifong to drop the remaining charges.

The case goes again before a judge on Feb. 5 when the defense is expected to ask that the results of a photo lineup in which the accuser identified the players be thrown out. Without her identification, experts say, Nifong might have to drop the other charges.

"We have a feeling that the events of the past three or four weeks give people a sense that there is a developing view in the community that these boys are innocent," Smith said Wednesday.

This story is closed for comments.

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  • WXYZ Jan 5, 2007

    Seligmann and Finnerty probably expect a lot more from Duke in reparation than just simple reinstatement. The presumtion of guilt until proven innocence seems to be the dominant principle within this situation. If and when these two guys prove their innocence, they will go after restitution and damages from Nifong and Duke and the accuser. They would be stupid to continue their education at Duke. Duke's reputation and enrollment has steadily dropped during the past 8 months; and I expect this to continue. The former coach should also sue Duke.

  • Tired of thoughtlessness Jan 4, 2007

    I understand Duke has to look at the safety of the other students on campus, but I believe it is the same scenario. They were merely charges, and the students were banned. Yes, the rape "charge" is dropped, but there is still the sexual assualt charge, so tell me the difference as far as the school's viewpoint/standing on these students.

  • fvb19562 Jan 4, 2007

    I tend to agree with tksmith, if the parties colors were to be reversed you could have expected a totally different handling of this case. I am not surprised one bit that Duke is willing to accepted these students back. That Duke climate over there is so above it all. Anything those kids say or done over there is considered clean wholesome fun, but bring the same circumstances to an undukiee environment and all hell breaks loose. Do I care about all this? Not one least bit, I've gotten used to this racist attitudes, and the haves always getting the benefit of the doubt b.s. in this country. How anyone can feel these boys have a right to be back in school is total insane, and I don't care if they raped the girl or not. Their actions that night, overall, should be unacceptable, but then again they are great dukies! Go Duke!!!

  • dclark Jan 4, 2007

    Innocent untill proven guilty....So why did Duke ban the students before they had a chance to prove themselves innocent? It's such a game we play, with peoples' lives and reputations at stake. Why welcome them back now? what has changed? They still say they are innocent of all charges. Maybe because fong has dropped the rape charges? They were CHARGES, not CONVICTIONS! The charges still pending are just as serious as the rape charge. I wonder if coach K had been charged with similar charges, would they have banned him? I think not. I think Duke showed lack of courage and conviction by banning these students before they had a fair trial. Anyone can accuse, DA's will charge, but only after a trial of their peers will one be innocent or guilty. Allowing them to come back to their school now , to me, only shows what a political game this whole mess has been and still is.

  • Just thinking Jan 4, 2007

    Somehow lost in all of this is the behavior of these college students - underage drinking, racist comments and email and a prior conviction of a hate crime by one player. If this had been black male basketball players and a white stripper, would the same opinions and concern be voiced, or would the players prior conduct be exposed and examined - unlike the lacrosse case.

  • wrp1997 Jan 4, 2007

    The truth will always be the truth. First, it is the accusers that are to blame for putting themselves in this situation. This is what they choose to do and there is nothing that happened here that does not happen every single time this type of woman performs. They decided to do this type of work of there own free will and should be held to account for the things they choose to do. This is not an office environment where this type of behavior is not acceptable and those same standards should and could not be applied to them.

  • S-O-L Jan 4, 2007

    The so called victim has a job going to peoples homes and taking off her clothes. NC Central has high standards for its students also.

  • NCbred77 Jan 4, 2007

    Thats the least Duke University could do for these boys. And if you think Duke University is the only college with athletes having strippers at parties and underage drinking, you are kidding yourself. I think these boys have been punished enough.

  • jcrew1979 Jan 4, 2007

    I honestly thought the girl made it up to start with just so she could sue someone and get a fat check. People are so lawsuit crazy these days. The "rape victim" has contradicted herself and the other dancer didn't really give any solid evidence to back it up either. I don't know what to believe. I'll just add them to my prayer list.

  • kahshop Jan 4, 2007

    I'm with you Donna-at-Tumblingcolors! Although I do not think the punishment fit the crime.