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Lawsuit Threat Puts Panel Probing Durham PD in 'Holding Pattern'

Posted August 27, 2007

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— The threat of a federal lawsuit could possibly derail the independent committee investigating the Durham Police Department's handling of the Duke lacrosse case.

Civil attorneys representing David Evans, Collin Finnerty and David Evans recently contacted the city's legal department notifying them that they are considering filing a lawsuit, city spokeswoman Beverly Thompson confirmed Monday.

No civil lawsuit has been filed, and it is unclear who could be sued – the city or the police department.

But the 12-member panel is in a "holding pattern" until city attorneys meet with the former defendants' attorneys, Thompson said in a news release issued Monday afternoon.

That meeting is scheduled for Sept. 5.

The city also received notification from its insurance carrier reminding it of its contractual duties to cooperate under policy provisions, "which would include not engaging in activities that might compromise a subsequent defense of an action against the city," the news release said.

When reached for comment Monday, Durham Mayor Bill Bell confirmed the attorneys' meeting, but he would not comment further on the matter.

Monday's news release said city attorneys will brief the City Council on Sept. 6 in a special closed-session meeting.

Bell and members of the City Council called for the independent investigation in May following an internal police department report that found detectives did nothing wrong in conducting their investigation into exotic dancer Crystal Mangum's allegations that Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann raped, sexually assaulted and beat her at a party in March 2006.

During its first meeting last month, the 12-member committee heard from defense attorneys, who argued that officers, under the direction of then-District Attorney Mike Nifong, conducted an investigation directed toward proving the truth of the accuser's story and the guilt of the defendants rather than trying to determine what happened.

Nifong, who was suspended as district attorney and disbarred this summer, dismissed rape charges against all three players in December, and Attorney General Roy Cooper dismissed the case in April, declaring them innocent.

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  • Obscurite Aug 29, 2007

    "The ignorance of the Jesse and Al comments keep coming. It seems that whenever this case is brought up, they are mentioned. Why? Because they did what they are supposed to do, which is to be social conscience voices for the oppressed and voiceless. If you think social activists are not needed, look at the situation in Jena Louisana - the Jena 6 (Thank God for the Jesse's and Al's - those who refuse to remain silent when racism and injustice is alive and well.)"

    I don't have a problem with responsible social activism, but if the Rev's want to maintain any credibility (which they clearly do not have) then they need to take responsibility when they err. Has either of them offered an apology for their inflammatory speeches made at the time the story first broke? Have they recended the free tuition paid to the person at the root of the trouble? This is not their first time of being on the wrong side of an issue and sadly, this is not the first time an apology was owed and not offered.

  • jon2four Aug 29, 2007

    Lacross Team holds beer bash,hires scrippers three players accused of rape.Players hire Defence Lawyers ,Police investigate,investigative material turned over to DA.DA goes before grand jury ,grand jury reccomends trial,state brings charges.Case tried in media (radio, tv ,newspapers,internet)State Attny General intervens, all charges dismissed ,lack of evidence. Justice served.Players demand money,Victim sued , No? State Sued ,no ?media sued ,no? NC tax payers sued ,yes.

  • jon2four Aug 29, 2007

    Maybe the Duke students should sue themselves.It was their foolishness that started this whole mess. Under age kids at a beer bash hiring scrippers,isn't that what we have lost sight of.Wasn't justices satisfied when it was determined that they were innocent.So where does justice stop and vengence begin. No,they,the students shouldn't be paid one dime.It was their responsibility to pay for their own defence,not the Durham tax payer.It was their lack of responsibility that got them into this let them pay.

  • CauseTaker Aug 29, 2007

    "Further, the coverage Durham has is $5 million and the city has a $500K deductible. However, the insurance company will treat these lawsuits as ONE event, therefore limiting the max. payout."

    Even though the policy is capped at $5 million that doesn't prevent the Duke 3 families from seeking more if their case goes to trial. If they choose to negotiate a quiet out-of-court settlement then they may be limited to the insurance cap. A settlement would also prevent the truth from being in the public record.

    We gained a great amount of insight during Nifong's State Bar Hearing. There are still many more questions unanswered, so I hope the Duke 3 families take their case to trial if they can tolerate another lengthy court battle.

    I sincerely hope they are all fairly compensated, not only for the monies spent for legal defense and extensive travel, but also for their pain and suffering.

  • 68_polara Aug 28, 2007

    "The attorneys representing the three students should do EVERYTHING they can to punish those involved"

    Or at least get a sincere apology from Nifong, and any at all from Al Sharpton, Bill Bell, and the self righteous hypercritical femanazis that protested at the laccrosse house before ever having a clue as to what happened.

  • Nancy Aug 28, 2007

    "Also, do not overlook the fact that there is a strong possibility that FEDERAL civil rights charges can be successfully pursued against Durham government agencies. It's no wonder their insurance company has "reminded" Durham officials of its contractual duty to cooperate with any forthcoming investigation."

    That is exactly what is driving this latest legal issue, they are going after federal civil rights violations. In fact, the cities insurance company AIG, told them to cease and desist on the independent investigation while this is ongoing or they will drop their coverage of the city as a client.

    Further, the coverage Durham has is $5 million and the city has a $500K deductible. However, the insurance company will treat these lawsuits as ONE event, therefore limiting the max. payout.

    The insurance company is always stating they have the right of basically having final say on WHO the city uses as lawyers to defend these lawsuits.

    Going to get messy.

  • oneday8035 Aug 28, 2007

    If certain people would man up and admit that they were wrong in their accusations then we might leave it alone. Why shouldn't the families of these boys be able to recoup some of the money that they had to spend on legal fees, travel etc.? They were falsely accused but still had to pay out a large sum of money to prove it. Just because the families had more money than the norm around here some think that they should just chalk it up to doing what they had to do. The fact is that they shouldn't have had to spend anything because nothing happened. The boys were wrong to have that type of party but it happens everyday on every college campus in the US. College kids party, these just almost paid with the rest of their lives.

  • FE Aug 28, 2007

    I totally disagree with those who say "give it a rest" or "get over it" or "get on with their lives."

    The attorneys representing the three students should do EVERYTHING they can to punish those involved, to clearly send a message to other district attorneys, police departments, and such out there that this type of behavior cannot be allowed to exist and if you engage in such, the penalties will be extremely severe.

    It was the citizens of Durham County who re-elected/supported Nifong, and it was also they who chose the police department officials, city council members, and others. The chickens have simply come home to roost.

    Also, do not overlook the fact that there is a strong possibility that FEDERAL civil rights charges can be successfully pursued against Durham government agencies. It's no wonder their insurance company has "reminded" Durham officials of its contractual duty to cooperate with any forthcoming investigation.

  • Doodlebug Aug 28, 2007

    I think that ALL goverment positions should be monitored in some way. After all, isn't their salary coming from our tax money? Any employee who is honest and has nothing to hide would not object to his/her position being monitored. This
    would save taxpayers a considerable amount of money. I hope the Duke players get compensated for what they went through.

  • tiredofgovtwaste Aug 28, 2007

    "These boys need to get over it, go on with their lives, and be glad that they're not still behind bars. Give it a rest."

    If this had been you or your bothers, would you be saying this? I think not, as it appears that you are upset because these young "white" men did nothing wrong and through the careless efforts of the DA's office, the durham pd, the mayor's office and Duke University officials, the city of durham has been shown to be a racist city where a white male is doomed. If the song is played then someone must pay.

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