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Lawyers Discuss Potential Duke Lacrosse Civil Rights Lawsuit

Posted September 5, 2007

— High-profile attorneys representing three former Duke University lacrosse players falsely accused of rape and sexual assault met Wednesday with legal counsel for the City of Durham about a possible civil rights lawsuit.

A city spokeswoman confirmed last month that civil attorneys for David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann contacted the city about, but it was not known who would be named in any complaint.

"At this point, it is inappropriate to comment regarding the meeting and possible claims," Durham public affairs director Amy Blalock said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon.

Attorneys for the city were to brief Durham City Council members Thursday at 11 a.m. in a closed meeting.

Attorneys for the falsely accused former lacrosse players had no comment Wednesday, but Finnerty's father, Kevin Finnerty, said he sees the potential litigation as a way to hold the city accountable.

"If there were crimes committed and these people truly did things criminally and wrong, and they're responsible, then they're responsible," he said.

Seligmann retained New York attorney Barry Scheck, who helped defend O.J. Simpson in his highly publicized 1995 murder trial, to represent him.

Evans and Finnerty retained Washington D.C. attorneys Christopher Manning and Brendan V. Sullivan Jr. – who received attention for representing Lt. Col. Oliver North in the Iran-Contra scandal.

"We do have civil counsel. They are also excellent," Kevin Finnerty said. "We are following their lead."

The threat of a lawsuit has temporarily halted the work of an independent committee examining the Durham Police Department's handling of the case. The city's insurance company has warned that the panel's findings could be evidence in a case.

But some City Council members said Wednesday they think the third-party review should resume and that the truth is more important than the potential millions of dollars the city could lose.

"Clearly, there were some mistakes, and in the end, people have to be held accountable," at-large council member Thomas Stith III said.

"(The civil attorneys) are big names, but so what," Ward 2 council member Howard Clement said. "We're going to find out where the truth is."

Evans, Seligmann and Finnerty were indicted in Spring 2006 on first-degree rape, kidnapping and sexual assault charges after exotic dancer Crystal Mangum accused them of attacked her at a party in March 2006.

In December, then-District Attorney Mike Nifong dismissed rape charges after Mangum wavered in key details of her stories. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dismissed the case against the players in April, declaring them innocent.

Since then, the focus of the case has turned to Nifong and the police department.

Durham Mayor Bill Bell and some Council members called for the independent investigation into the police department's handling of the case in May following an internal report that found detectives did nothing wrong in conducting their investigation.

In June, Nifong was stripped of his law license as a result of his behavior surrounding the case. He resigned as district attorney in July.

And last week, Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III held Nifong in criminal contempt for lying to the court during a hearing on the case last September. Nifong will report to the Durham County Jail on Friday to serve a one-day sentence.

After months of courtroom hearings, Kevin Finnerty said he's open to more legal action if it can serve as a deterrent to future prosecutions.

"The last year-and-a-half has been the worst moments of our lifetime by far and away, and you wouldn't want this one anybody," he said.

218 Comments

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  • iamforjustice Sep 6, 3:50 p.m.

    Nancy why are you picking on me today? :) I am not a troll. lol

  • knotty Sep 6, 3:47 p.m.

    Holy Carp! Trollie McTroller wrote:

    "Well I just pray that this ordeal doesn't affect her in the sense that she may become suicidal, low self esteemed or become sexually permiscuous. I hope she finds peace within herself and learn to forgive all that has wronged her..."

    That is almost English! But not quite! She had the DNA from over 10 men on her, and now you are worried she might become, as you say, "sexually permiscuous"? Wow. Wow. Wow. What would the count be if she did? One hundred DNA samples?

    She has been wronged? I think she has wronged far more people than the other way around. Do you read these comments? Are you aware of her long criminal history? What about the 3 little children she has? Are they being raised in a good home? I could go on, but work beckons...

  • Nancy Sep 6, 3:22 p.m.

    further elcid, Gottlieb's notes of the description Crystal gave of the supposed assailants is 180 degrees different than the description given according to Himan's notes. Yet, both these descriptions are supposedly taken at the same time?

    Gottlieb changed his 'recollection' of said descriptions as he never took notes at the supposed meeting with Crystal where she gave such descriptions. Gottlieb wrote up his summary report 4 months AFTER the fact, as he clearly stated in his deposition to the bar. He claimed he drew his summary up from his memory and Himan's notes during the case.

    Oh ya, Gottlieb has some serious issues here.

  • elcid89 Sep 6, 3:14 p.m.

    Regarding the "BIG chip" posting - Yikes! That's a definite problem that needs to be addressed.

  • elcid89 Sep 6, 3:13 p.m.

    "elcid, I'm not so sure the family is looking for money so much as accountability and liability. Yes, they received a settlement from Duke that from what I can gather covered their legal expenses and more to that point."

    From what I caught in conversation, the settlement number was healthy. That said, Duke has a $4.5 billion endowment and the number that passed by my ears wouldn't have made them burp, much less blink.

    I believe this civil rights case is to expose the layered problems within DPD and some, such as Baker, who also provided cover for the actions of some in DPD."

    You may be correct. I guess we'll both have to stay tuned in to see how it all plays out. If things are truly that bad in the DPD, some good will come out of the extended attention and time under the microscope either way. That can't be a bad thing.

  • Nancy Sep 6, 2:56 p.m.

    "Well I just pray that this ordeal doesn't affect her in the sense that she may become suicidal, low self esteemed or become sexually permiscuous."

    lol - now I'm SURE you're merely a troll :)

  • iamforjustice Sep 6, 2:55 p.m.

    Well I just pray that this ordeal doesn't affect her in the sense that she may become suicidal, low self esteemed or become sexually permiscuous. I hope she finds peace within herself and learn to forgive all that has wronged her and move on and raise her kids the best she can. I have faith that she can do it and put the past behind her and have a bright future.

  • Nancy Sep 6, 2:48 p.m.

    elcid, I'm not so sure the family is looking for money so much as accountability and liability. Yes, they received a settlement from Duke that from what I can gather covered their legal expenses and more to that point.

    I believe this civil rights case is to expose the layered problems within DPD and some, such as Baker, who also provided cover for the actions of some in DPD.

    I would rather see the problems exposed than a behind closed door settlement, which changes nothing.

  • Nancy Sep 6, 2:42 p.m.

    elcid - a BIG chip, but he has a long history of that behavior, so this will not be fun for him by any stretch.

    Worse, not just his pursuit of Duke students (down to handcuffs and hauling them off to jail for an 'open container' violation), he let off locals without any action even though they were found to have unregistered handguns on their persons etc. He's really not the most ethical cop on the force, that's clear with his arrest/stop records.

    Further, many of his cases against Duke students never were found to be valid when they made it to court.

  • elcid89 Sep 6, 2:35 p.m.

    Sounds like he possibly has a chip on his shoulder regarding Duke students?

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