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Privacy, Personal Info. Take Center Stage In Duke Lacrosse Hearing

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DURHAM, N.C. — Attorneys for Duke University men's lacrosse players who have been cleared in a rape investigation that led to charges against three teammates appeared in court Monday to fight prosecution subpoenas that seek access to school records.

The hearing came the same day that attorneys for charged players Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans also appeared in court for the latest pretrial hearing in the case.

Attorneys for the uncharged players want to prevent District Attorney Mike Nifong from gaining access to Duke records of the home addresses of uncharged team members and records of their use of student identity cards. The lawyers argue the information is protected by federal privacy laws.

Bob Ekstrand, who represents 33 of the team's 46 players, said Nifong has provided no reason why he needs the information. After filing charges against Evans in May, Nifong issued a statement saying no other team member was implicated in the alleged rape of an exotic dancer at a team party in March.

"It's not like there's a great concern there's something in here apart from the serious privacy issue for these individuals and the rest of the Duke community," Ekstrand said.

According to a motion filed by lawyer Bill Thomas on behalf of graduated Duke player Bret Thompson, Nifong issued subpoenas May 31 seeking home addresses and activity records from the ID cards, which are used to gain access to buildings and can be used to purchase items on campus.

"The subpoenas were issued erroneously as they are not supported by an affidavit providing legal justification" for needing the information, Thomas said in the motion.

Nifong's office declined to comment Friday.

Seligmann, Finnerty and Evans are not expected to attend their hearing, which is largely a procedural checkpoint in the pretrial system.

In last month's pretrial hearing, a judge ordered a bond reduction for Seligmann from $400,000 to $100,000 -- a change later applied to Finnerty and Evans as well. The rest of that hearing dealt largely with issues of discovery and defense access to evidence, and Monday's hearing followed similar lines.

The hearing was e the "second setting" for all three players, which is the deadline for filing pretrial motions not dealing with the suppression of evidence.

Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J.; Finnerty, 19, of Garden City, N.Y.; and Evans, 23, of Bethesda, Md.; are charged with rape, kidnapping and sexual offense. Attorneys for all three players have strongly proclaimed their clients' innocence. A trial isn't expected to begin before spring 2007.