Local News

Civil Suit Might Be First of Many in Duke Lacrosse Case

Posted January 5, 2007

— The first civil lawsuit stemming from the Duke lacrosse criminal case is on the books, and one legal observer said more could be on the way.

Nine months after a woman leveled rape allegations against three players, Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong dropped the charges two weeks ago. Collin Finnerty, Reade Seligman and Dave Evans still face sexual offense and kidnapping charges.

As the criminal case against the players moves forward, however, Duke University could find itself bracing for its own legal battles. The school's actions in the weeks following the accusations could have lasting legal implications.

On Thursday, former Duke Lacrosse player Kyle Dowd filed the first civil suit in connection with the scandal. He claims a visiting instructor flunked him in a course because he was a lacrosse player, and he sued her and the university. he is seeking money damages and a grade of "passing" for the course. The university already had changed his grade from an F to a D.

Dowd was never implicated in the investigation.

“I didn't want to see Duke turn their back on other students like they turned their back on me and my fellow teammates,” Dowd said.
The Durham community demonstrated its outrage when an exotic dancer claimed she was raped by three men at an off-campus house last March, demanding that the university take action against the players. Nifong added his voice to the public outcry.

“It was an elected official making those statements,” said defense attorney Hart Miles, who is unconnected to the Duke case.

In the weeks after the allegations, Duke abruptly canceled the lacrosse season, suspended the players and fired Coach Mike Pressler. Miles said those decisions indicate the university buckled under public pressure and based its actions on the district attorney's comments in the news.

“They were relying on (Nifong's) statements as (to) what happened at the very beginning of the case, and Duke reacted to that,” Miles said.

While Duke isn't commenting on the suit, Miles said it could be the first of many civil suits against the university. If that happens, he said, university officials could claim they didn't have all the facts in the beginning.

“Even though this (criminal) case may go away either by trial or dismissal, it's going to linger in the community and the legal system for a while,” Miles said.

The Duke lacrosse criminal case returns to court on Feb. 5. According to Nifong, the accuser is scheduled to attend the hearing.

This story is closed for comments.

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  • dlb800 Jan 6, 2007

    Ok fvb1956, what "illegal activity" (other than maybe some underage drinking), were they doing? Having a party with a stripper is not illegal. I am not saying what they did was the right thing to do, but it's far from being illegal. We have lawmakers that actually DO break laws, and they get away free, or people just plain ignore it. If you go to a wild party, and something happens, sure, it was the risk you take, but it isn't illegal. Look at Jim Black, people actually re-elected him after all the scandals he's had lately.

  • freddie cadetti 72 Jan 6, 2007

    fvb1956 apparently has an agenda which closely resembles the feminist visiting teacher who gave the student an F. People like you and her taking advantage of a situation for your own feminist liberal satisfaction is what's wrong with our system of equal justice under law. You will never understand you are undermining the very equal justice under law which gives you the freedom to say and act in the manner you choose. One thing remains...the truth, and you will see the truth prevail in this civil suit as well as the criminal case. Work more at having the truth on your side in your arguments...you will be better for it.

  • aaronmarcin Jan 6, 2007

    One must feel pity for these poor guys who will be affected by this for the rest of their lives.

  • jmw21 Jan 6, 2007

    I don't understand why Mr. Miles would choose to say "It was an elected official making those statements". Is he impling that Duke Administrators are justified in assuming that all utterances from elected officals be considered gospel truth? And if in so doing, are these people and the institution they represent to be held harmless for slander and other damaging actions because they "didn't have all the facts in the beginning"? Do we live in a world where no one is responsible for the consequences of their actions? Duke does not srtike as a place of "higher" learning.

  • jhsawyer Jan 6, 2007

    I thought in America one was innocent until PROVEN guilty. Guess Not if you live in durham!

  • St Ives Jan 6, 2007

    Niforg should be sued for defamation of character and just plain old fashion incompetance.

  • fvb19562 Jan 6, 2007

    Talk about a joke! This is amazing! People need to understand these guys were part of illegal activity! Forget the rape charges, just look at what they were taking part in as college students. Now that the rape charges have been dropped they feel vindicated. This is the problem at Duke, the students there feel they are above it all. Their parents money buys them out of trouble, and now you have a student trying to take advantage of the situation to get a passing grade. A "F" to a "D", big deal. Apparently he needed to limit his stripper party activities and focused more on his books. No worry, before it is said and done he'll be considered as a nice wholesome young man who was just having fun. What a joke!

  • FloydRTurbo Jan 6, 2007

    Please publish the names and positions of each of the 88 signers of "the letter of condemnation". Are they also "protected"? Everyone apparently is "protected" EXCEPT the three boys who did nothing wrong. .... seems rather odd!

  • happilychildfree Jan 5, 2007

    Good for him! He/they also need to name the accuser in the suit too. Just to break her spirit and her tiny bank account, put her in the streets, and let the state take that liar's children from her. Her story has destroyed the lives of many and she needs to pay for it. She got home that night and was raped and beaten by her boyfriend for not bringing home enough money because she left after only 10 minutes at the party with no extra tips and tried to blame it on anyone she could. Another case of trying to blame someone else for your own problems.

  • Sandtiger Jan 5, 2007

    IANAL (I am not a lawyer) but does this really surprise anyone?