Local News

Photos Support Lacrosse Athletes' Denial Of Rape, Attorney Says

Posted April 9, 2006 1:42 a.m. EDT
Updated January 7, 2007 1:34 p.m. EST

— A defense attorney representing members of Duke University's men's lacrosse team says he has photos that back up the athletes' denial of rape allegations stemming from a party last month.

A 27-year-old woman, who is black, told police that she was raped by three white members of the highly ranked lacrosse team at the party, which took place at a university-owned house on Buchanan Boulevard, near the Duke campus.

Lacrosse athletes, however, have denied the claims and have said very little to Durham investigators, leading authorities to take DNA samples from 46 of the 47 players.

Attorney Bill Thomas, who declined to identify the player he represents, said photos taken by a student at the party the night in question prove the rape never happened. They show the woman, an exotic dancer hired to dance at the party, had extensive cuts and bruises on her body when she arrived to the house.

Other photos show the woman lying on the ground as if she were asleep or intoxicated; another photo shows the alleged victim smiling and trying to get inside the house, Thomas said. All of the photos are time-stamped before the rape reportedly occurred.

"All of these statements you've heard ... about this brutal assault, rape, kidnapping and robbery which occurred, I believe that the public will soon be able to learn the truth, and that these allegations are totally false and without merit," Thomas said.

He also said he would not release the photos, taken by at least two cameras, until pending DNA tests are completed. He also would not say whether the photos were taken by a lacrosse team member or someone else; court documents have indicated that only team members were present at the March 13 party.

City leaders have urged the public to be patient and to let investigators do their work, but members of the Durham community and the black community, including the North Carolina chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, have called for a quick investigation into the case.

The Church of Apostolic Revival International was the latest group to hold a rally Sunday in front of the house, at 610 Buchanan Blvd., where the alleged rape occurred. The house is also the place an unidentified woman told a 911 dispatcher that someone shouted racial epithets at her and a friend.

Defense attorneys say the lacrosse players requested two white dancers for the party, but the two African-American women showed up.

The group was confronting two issues: the lack of criminal charges at this point in the investigation and the issue of racism that has resulted from the case.

DNA results are expected sometime this week from a State Bureau of Investigation crime lab. Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong has said charges could also be filed.

Nifong has also said that a medical exam of the woman shows that some type of sexual assault did occur, and that even if DNA evidence does not link any of the lacrosse players to a sexual assault, there is other evidence in the case.

Results from the DNA tests would not be made available to the public, Nifong has said, but some defense attorneys have said they may release the test results.

Last week, those defense attorneys also spoke out about other evidence that they said would clear their clients, including numerous e-mails written in the hours after the alleged attacks. Defense attorney Kerry Sutton, who represents team co-captain Matt Zash, said she believed the woman fabricated her story and "quickly got in over her head with the story she's telling."

Joe Cheshire, who represents co-captain Dave Evans, told reporters last Thursday that the unidentified woman who made the 911 call was actually a second exotic dancer, whose identity has not yet surfaced publicly, who had been working at the party with the alleged victim. The caller alternatively told the 911 dispatcher that the pair were driving and walking past the house.

And although one-third of the lacrosse team has been charged in recent years with alcohol possession and disorderly conduct, the woman making the accusations also has a criminal past.

In June 2002, police records show, she stole the taxi of a man to whom she was giving a lap dance at a Durham strip club. The records say she led a sheriff's deputy on a winding chase at speeds of up to 70 mph, and tried to run him down as he approached the cab on foot.

The woman, a divorced mother of two, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of larceny, speeding to elude arrest, assault on a government official and driving while impaired. She was sentenced to three consecutive weekends in jail and two years' probation.