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Durham Officials Mum on Lacrosse Lawsuit Situation

Posted October 4, 2007
Updated October 5, 2007

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— Durham City Council members were tight-lipped Thursday after a closed-door meeting about a potential federal civil rights lawsuit by three former Duke lacrosse players falsely accused of rape and sexual assault.

Council members left the session without comment, but the issue has already assumed a central role in the Durham mayoral race.

Last month, civil attorneys for David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann met with the city's attorney and gave the city until early October to respond to a reported $30 million settlement to avoid the suit.

The players maintain their rights were violated in the yearlong investigation, in which they were indicted, then later declared innocent, of allegations that they raped, sexually assaulted and beat an exotic dancer at a team party.

Council members must decide whether to agree to the settlement, which also includes reforms to the legal process; to negotiate a different settlement or to fight a possible lawsuit.

Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann are each seeking about $10 million, their attorneys told The Associated Press last month.

In addition, attorneys are seeking the creation of ombudsman positions to review complaints of misconduct about North Carolina district attorneys, and they want Durham city officials to lead the lobbying for any legal changes that would require action by the state's General Assembly, a person close to the case told The AP.

The City Council must also decide whether to proceed with an independent panel examining the Durham Police Department's handling of the case. The possibility of a lawsuit has stalled the panel's probe because the city's insurance company is concerned about how any findings could affect a lawsuit.

Mayor Bill Bell and at least three City Council members called for the probe after an internal department report found no wrongdoing on investigators' part.

A document showing a timeline of police activity in the lacrosse case, which was made public this week, showed Bell met with police early on in the case.

Bell said he wanted to find out if lacrosse players were cooperating with investigators and he wanted to let officers know he was worried about mounting tensions.

Councilman Thomas Stith, who is running against Bell for mayor in next week's election, said Bell pressured police to solve the case quickly. That could increase the city's liability in the lacrosse players' potential suit, he said.

"The only reason we're even talking about this now is because someone on this council wants to discredit me for his own political gain," Bell said. "It's petty, exploitive and a waste of people's time."

"The real issue is, was the process pushed forward by a higher level? When asked that, the mayor became forgetful," Stith said.

48 Comments

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  • ForeRight Oct 5, 2007

    A little "side topic" opinion related to Duke's "Gang of 88". I believe that the settlement Duke University made protects these misguided professors. If the Duke student body really wanted to try for change and removal of these fools, students would refuse to take classes from those who signed their name to that horrid and damning advertisement. If the classes are empty, perhaps the University would find a way to push them out. Tenure is a terrible thing when its purpose is misused. Why didn't these same profs take out an ad apologizing for being wrong and out of place?

    AS for Durham and Duke, I don't want my kid to go there to become a target because he is white. There are too many good options to select such a hostile environment: Columbia, Princeton, Stanford, Yale,etc.

  • Nancy Oct 5, 2007

    "then how come it was not obvious to anyone else whe this thing started?"

    It was, it was wholly ignored by Nifong, DPD and everyone else who wanted this case to go forward for a variety of reasons.

  • St Ives Oct 5, 2007

    My question is this. If Mangum is so mentally unstable, and it is so obvious to the DA and others without her having to be examined by a shrink, then how come it was not obvious to anyone else whe this thing started?

  • Phlootang Oct 5, 2007

    68 Polaris is right; WE elected this fool, knowing that he was predicial against the boys. WE must pay for these actions! I suggest that we, all of us, are forced to dance for the Duke players at their next party. It will be embarassing, but we must make amends.

  • Nancy Oct 5, 2007

    Mangum will never face any responsibility, personally or through the legal system. The AG made sure of that. Durham PD and Nifong made sure of that.

    She won't even be charged with filing a false police report, although only a misdemeanor charge when she already has a record that includes felony charges from prior bad acts.

    What makes me wonder is this. If the AG found her to be so mentally unstable to face charges in this matter, why does she still have her three fatherless children in her care?

  • nycole125 Oct 5, 2007

    Beside the three players whose lives have been for ever changed because of this horrible injustice and a rogue DA, do not forget the other 43 athletes who were affected. After all, CGM could have picked any of them..
    Liefong would not have succeeded without the cooperation of police and, as someone here said, the Durham people's ingrained feelings of hate against the so called privileged students of Duke. So much for their Christian faith. It's easy to develop a mob mentality and start banging pots and carry "castrate" signs. It shows how easy it is for the likes of Jackson, Sharpton, Petersen, the Gang of 88, local "activists", Panthers, to incite ignorant people to behave the way they did last spring. Liefong, of course, was the main evil of this drama and his phony apologies did not fool anyone but, the sad truth is: the 3 young men will bear this cross for the rest of their lives. And for that, Durham has to pay the $30 mil., the weight of these heavy crosses.

  • Heatherbrook Oct 5, 2007

    I think we would all feel better if Mangum gets what she deserves.

  • The Fox Oct 5, 2007

    Another stake into the heart of political correctness!

  • Nancy Oct 5, 2007

    I'm glad to see that Durham may not "settle", and it will end up in a federal courtroom setting.

    I look forward to ALL the trainwreck being exposed. I want to know who did what/when/why and the number of dirty hands involved in this hoax. If someone can claim false charges as Mangum did and the DPD on ALL levels doesn't follow standard procedure, doesn't care to seek out ALL evidence, has no interest in looking for the truth and has the support of the city manager and mayor along the way, then they must answer to their actions.

    By not settling, full exposure with names attached to actions will come to the surface for all to see.

    Perhaps in the future, Durham residents won't be so quick to cast their votes based on bias.

  • seankelly15 Oct 5, 2007

    law-2-tech - Quite simply - the only relevant issue is whether the player’s civil rights were violated. If so, then what amount of money must be paid because of this violation? The amount will be determined during negotiations or after the trial.

    What maximums are you referring to? I already stated that the 'maximum' is only the amount of insurance that can be paid; whatever a judge, jury or settlement decides, the five million dollar maximum liablity coverage has no bearing.

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