Local News

Former Lacrosse Players, Attorneys Speak Out

Posted April 11, 2007

— Friends applauded. Dozens of teammates cheered. Mothers and father looked on with pride. It felt, for a moment, like a pep rally.

But the three former Duke lacrosse players cleared Wednesday of raping an exotic dancer at a team party insisted there was nothing to celebrate, and they lashed out at both the prosecutor who pursued them and reporters who were enthralled by the prospect they were guilty.

"For everyone who chose to speak out against us before any of the facts were known, I truly hope that you are never put in a position where you have to experience the same pain and heartache that you have caused our families," said Reade Seligmann, one of the three players.

"Your hurtful words and outrageous lies will be forever linked to this tragedy," Seligmann continued. "Everyone will always remember that we told the truth."

Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans and their attorneys saved most of their anger for Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, who took over the case in its early days - and pressed ahead even as evidence mounted that the players were innocent.

Nifong once called them "hooligans" and denounced what he called a "blue wall of silence." He insisted that DNA evidence would identify the guilty, but continued to seek indictments after tests failed to connect any of the players to the accuser. Court documents would later show the players had largely cooperated with investigators from the start.

"There was never a blue wall of silence," Evans said. "Look at the facts of the case, you will see that. It's painful to remember what we went through in those first days."

But as critical as the players were of Nifong and the media, they appeared subdued when compared to their attorneys, who are among North Carolina's most prominent defense lawyers. Leading the charge was Joseph Cheshire, who represented Evans and referred to himself as "the mouth."

"The Duke lacrosse case was prosecuted by a man who had not a care in the world about justice, but only about himself and his personal agenda," Cheshire said. "He is a man who ignored overwhelming evidence of innocence ... and deliberately misled this community, misled the media and even mislead the court in his search for a false conviction."

Seligmann's attorney, James Cooney III, alluded to Nifong as one of the cowards in the entire case, stopping short of passing judgment on the embattled district attorney and his pending legal troubles.

"I'm not going to say anything else about him, because he's got a (North Carolina State) Bar hearing coming up," Cooney said. "I want to give him what he tried to deny Reade -- a fair hearing where he can put on his evidence.

And I've got confidence in the State Bar and confidence in their ability to decide that case fairly."

Nifong's actions in the case could end his career. The State Bar has charged the 29-year veteran of the Durham County prosecutor's office with a series of ethics violations, including making misleading comments about the players and withholding evidence from the defense.

"In the criminal case, the process played out with the appropriate result," Nifong's attorney, David Freedman, said Wednesday. "I'd ask people to let the State Bar process play out as well."

Seligmann, 21, of Essex Fells, N.J., Finnerty, 20, of Garden City, N.Y., and Evans, 24, of Bethesda, Md., all come from well-to-do families. And after a year of living in a legal limbo, they questioned what their fate would be if they didn't come from privilege.

"This entire experience has opened my eyes up to a tragic world of injustice I never knew existed," Seligmann said.

"If police officers and a district attorney can systematically railroad us with absolutely no evidence whatsoever, I can't imagine what they would do to people do not have the resources to defend themselves.

All three former defendants called for change in the state's legal system, specifically a checks and balance system for district attorneys and in regard to the lack of recording of grand jury hearings.

20 Comments

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  • trunkmonkee1971 Apr 12, 9:51 a.m.

    I wonder if the powers that be will look into Mr. Nifong's other cases. If he used shady tactics for this case then chances are there are other lower profile cases that should be looked into.

  • gonefishin2020 Apr 12, 9:42 a.m.

    Maybe we will see Nifong shopping at Wal-Mart after this is over......or panhandling on a street corner in downtown Durham......one could only dream................

  • Sidekick Apr 12, 9:24 a.m.

    Some official at NC Central was interviewed and said that these people should not think they are in a position to celebrate their vindication.

    Why not? Did he forget the celebrations that occured when O.J. was acqitted?

    Celebrate!!! I think it is high time white men celebrated. Save the great white male.

  • plcj Apr 12, 9:14 a.m.

    This situation has had an awful impact on these three young men lives not to mention their families and the school itself. Now in the process of this happening, one of the young men have graduated already. The other two were indeed ask back to the school and the team, but Finnerty dropped out of Duke (I think college altogether) and Seligmann turned down the offer to return to the team. Talk about messing people up in the prime of their lives.

  • WXYZ Apr 12, 8:32 a.m.

    CRYSTAL GAIL MANGUM should be prosecuted. Her face and HER name should be pounded at the public by TV, Radio and Newspaper every hour of every day for the next 395 days. The same should happen to M. Nifong for his criminal actions. And, the Duke University administrators who jumped to conclusions, made false assumptions and rushed to judgement against the FALSELY ACCUSED and the ENTIRE lacrosse team and its coach--THEIR names and faces should be thrown up for public judgement everyday for the next 395 days!

  • Durhamite_112459 Apr 12, 7:48 a.m.

    I fail to understand how this woman can bring false allegations against these three men, damaging their reputations as well as that of Duke University and the City of Durham but face no repercussions for her actions.... Would the same be true if this had been a case where a white female made false claims against three African-American males??

  • My Screen name Apr 12, 7:18 a.m.

    If Mike Nifong and Crystal Gail Mangum don't get jail time for this then there is still injustice in the system. I can only imagine the pain and suffering they caused. Nifong should be put on stand with his attorney and face the world like these boys did. Duke and all the people that accused and slandered these boys all need time in the media but watch them run and hide. I will speak on behalf of North Carolina and say I'm sorry it happened.

  • Me2 Apr 12, 7:11 a.m.

    **** The Truth Shall Set You Free **** Something Nifong and his gang would not understand. Too bad it was long in coming to these three young men, their familes, etc. who hopefully have not been ruined by this horrific lie/charade. Hopefully those who trusted Nifong and his bunch dotting idiots will see the light and if not, its their loss. After all, what can we expect from such a calous bunch of self-serving public servants. Now, let's see what the NC Bar Association does with their case against Nifong. As for me, I hope they throw the book at Nifong and his gang. Strip him of his livihood and make him suffer to pay the consequences. Then I hope the defendants sue him and his pitiful gang for everything they have and ever will have---ruin the bunch of selfish, self-serving clowns. As for the accuser, sue her and make her pay for her pitiful self-serving, greedy escapade. Maybe the next time she thinks about sex, she'll break out in hives.

  • MakoII Apr 12, 6:30 a.m.

    First thing about lewd dancing is that a 26 year old adult did so in front of minors. Not that minors were drinking. But this accuser obviously has drug and mental problems and no good will come of attacking her.

    The black community has basically forgotten that behind this illegal line-up will be 800 black kids who aren't millionaires, and THATS what's wrong here. A broken legal system that needs to be fixed for average folk, so we don't imprison and kill innocents.

  • uknomepopo Apr 12, 3:57 a.m.

    nifong, i would really like to hear from you on this case now...what?..no comment!?...after all you have had to say, now silence?...i'm shocked...!!!

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