Local News

Duke lacrosse accuser thought she was going to die

Posted October 24, 2008 11:56 a.m. EDT
Updated October 24, 2008 4:32 p.m. EDT

— Crystal Mangum thought she was going to die when three people allegedly raped her at a March 13, 2006, party hosted by Duke lacrosse players.

"I genuinely believed I was going to die in there, but I did not want to," Mangum writes in her new book, "The Last Dance for Grace: The Crystal Mangum Story," which was released online Friday.

Mangum was a student at North Carolina Central University in 2006 and also worked as an exotic dancer when she performed at the party. It was there, she claims, that three white members of the team trapped her inside a bathroom and raped and sexually assaulted her.

David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann were indicted on rape and other charges on the basis of her allegations and eventually exonerated after North Carolina's attorney general dismissed the case, citing a lack of evidence.

Speaking publicly for the first time Thursday at a news conference to promote the book, Mangum said that she still believes she was attacked.

"Yes I am still claiming that a sexual assault happened," she said.

In her book, Mangum says she thought she was going to perform for an audience of five or six people but instead found at least 20 people at the house.

The performance that night quickly escalated out of control, and she and another dancer tried to leave the party. But three players, including Evans, coaxed her back inside the house. Mangum quickly lost site of the other dancer, she writes, and was forced into the bathroom.

She describes in detail being raped but never identifies her alleged attackers and never mentions Finnerty or Seligmann in the book. She also says it is difficult for her to remember everything about her attackers.

"I had all of 10 minutes to know everything about everyone who may or may not have come in and out of that house, particularly the bathroom," she writes.

"It just flabbergasts me that she stands there and says that it happened," said Dennis Lane, who investigated the case for the defendants' legal team. "When you look at all the evidence in this case individually, it tells you that this did not occur."

Mangum also writes that she wants the files in the case to be made public. Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman with the attorney general's office, however, said Friday that investigative files are not public record in North Carolina.

Regarding her interaction with then-District Attorney Mike Nifong, Mangum writes she did not do an extensive interview with him until nine months after the lacrosse party. He later dismissed the rape charge after Mangum said she couldn't testify "with certainty" that she was raped, as defined under state law.

Mangum's public statements that she still believes she was attacked has drawn criticism from defense attorneys who represented the former players, and Seligmann's family said Thursday they were considering a lawsuit.

"It's a bald-faced lie," Evans' former attorney, Joseph Cheshire, said Thursday. "And there's nothing other than the 20 or 25 different stories she's told about it to corroborate it – absolutely nothing, and that's why the attorney general declared these young men innocent."

In a statement, Seligmann's father called Mangum's comments "simply a pathetic attempt to further her need to remain in the public eye at the expense of demonstrably innocent individuals."

"We are presently evaluating all available legal options," Phil Seligmann said. "If Ms. Mangum and those associated with her continue to slander Reade, we will have no choice and will not hesitate to utilize these options."

The three former players filed a federal civil rights lawsuit last year against Nifong, the city of Durham and others, but they have never named Mangum as a defendant in any legal action. Cheshire has said they felt sorry for her and thought, to some degree, she had been victimized by the judicial process.

Jim Cooney, who represented Seligmann in the criminal case, said attorneys would review the contents of the book.