Local News

Duke Lacrosse Rape Suspects Speak Out

Posted October 15, 2006 9:53 p.m. EDT
Updated January 7, 2007 11:22 a.m. EST

— The three members of Duke University's lacrosse team charged with rape say they expected DNA testing would clear them of a crime they insist they did not commit.

They said Sunday they were frustrated when authorities continued to pursue the case after those tests failed to find a match with the accuser.

"We were told it would help to clear everything up," said Collin Finnerty, 20, who was interviewed on CBS's "60 Minutes" along with Reade Seligmann, 20, and David Evans, 23. "So we were happy to go."

The accuser, a student at nearby North Carolina Central University, told police she was raped in a bathroom by three men at a March 13 off-campus team party where she had been hired to perform as a stripper.

Evans told "60 Minutes" he cooperated with police as soon as they arrived to start investigating the allegations.

"It was scary," Evans said. "I woke up from a nap to 10 police officers in my living room with a search warrant. I went through every part of it -- told 'em where they could find things and that we'd fully cooperate and answer any questions they had."

But Evans and Seligmann said they were never interviewed.

"I never once talked to police about that night," Seligmann said. "Never once."

"Somebody from the district attorney's office?" asked CBS correspondent Ed Bradley.

"Never. I never talked to any official about the night," Seligmann said.

Sunday's interviews marked the first time that Seligmann and Finnerty, who were indicted in April on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual assault, have spoken publicly about the allegations.

In May, a grand jury indicted Evans on the same charges, and he proclaimed his innocence outside the Durham County jail after posting bond, calling the charges "fantastic lies."

"I never expected anyone to get indicted, let alone myself," Finnerty said. "It's changed my life, no matter what happens from here on out. It's probably going to be something that defines me my whole life."

Defense attorneys, who have insisted their clients are innocent, declined repeated requests in recent weeks from The Associated Press for interviews with the indicted players.

But the fact that all three men chose to tell their sides of the story to a national audience, according to N.C. Central School of Law professor Dr. Irving Joyner, is an indication that "the media has been used very effectively by the defense to get their message out."

"It's clear someone working on behalf of the defense has been able to beat the drums and get the drum roll out and get the media intimately involved in this case," Joyner told WRAL Sunday evening.

The media exposure, both nationally and locally, Joyner said, would undoubtedly lengthen jury selection if the case goes to trial -- which could be as early as next spring.

"The issue though, is whether (potential jurors have) reached an opinion about the case," Joyner said. "And if they have, can they put it aside?"

The CBS report also included an interview with Kim Roberts, who was also hired to perform at the party. She said she was separated from the accuser twice during the evening, both times for five to 10 minutes. But Roberts said the accuser never gave her any reason to believe she had been attacked or that a rape occurred.

"She obviously wasn't hurt. You know, she was fine," Roberts said. "She wouldn't have went back into the house if she was hurt."

Roberts also disputed some claims made by the accuser that she was actually present at the time the accuser said she was attacked.

"Nope," Roberts said when asked by CBS about the claim.

In April, Roberts told the AP she was not in the bathroom, "so I can't say a rape occurred -- and I never will." She also told police the rape allegations were a "crock" and that she was with the accuser the entire time they were at the party, according to documents filed by the defense in June.

Joyner said that discrepancies between Roberts' and the accuser's stories could hurt the prosecution's case, if it goes to trial, if Roberts' testimony is the only evidence to support the accuser's claims.

"We don't know what other evidence the state may have," Joyner said, adding that the outcome of the case would probably be based on credibility.

"This case is going to be decided on if (a jury) believes the victim, not whether they believe the defendants," he said.

District Attorney Mike Nifong was not interviewed by "60 Minutes," and he has generally refused to comment about the case. Nifong's office said last week he was out of town and would not return until Monday.

Nifong initially complained publicly about a lack of cooperation from the team, and said the DNA test would reveal who committed rape and who was innocent. When the tests failed to find a definitive match, he said there is no DNA evidence in most sexual assault cases and vowed to press ahead with the case.

"It's so frustrating because that was an opportunity for us to exonerate ourselves," Seligmann told "60 Minutes." "And we were told that. If we cooperated, those that were innocent would be shown to be innocent. ... It didn't play out that way."

Indictments against the three players soon followed after a series of controversial photo lineups, in which the accuser identified Seligmann, Finnerty and Evans.

"If felt like Russian roulette. It could have been any single one of us," Seligmann said. "Kids were even calculating their chance ... the percentage ... that you would get picked."

Both Seligmann and Finnerty said they both have alibis that prove they were not at the party. Cell phone records show that Seligmann placed several calls, including one to a taxi service, and left the party before, defense attorneys say, the alleged rape would have occurred.

"I left soon after I saw them do their act in the room with everybody else," Finnerty said. "I saw them leave the room. I never saw them again in my life."

The "60 Minutes" report also showed a video it said was of the accuser performing at a strip club two weeks after the party. Late Sunday, defense attorney Joseph Cheshire said the tape was made a few days before the accuser went to a hospital and complained of lingering injuries from the alleged attack.

"It's enormous," said Cheshire, who represents Evans. "The relevance is she's saying she's so hurt and can't hardly move and can't remember what she's doing and some kind of victim of a rape and yet we'll have testimony and demonstrative evidence that days later she's in the strip club performing."

The segment also featured an interview with Duke University President Richard Brodhead, who commented on the case and the university's response to the allegations, and Duke professor James Coleman, who headed a committee that looked into the culture of the lacrosse team.

In response to the piece, Duke released the following statement on Monday: "We have consistently urged everyone to remember that the legal system presumes these students are innocent until proven otherwise," said John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations.

Evans also said he regretted his decision to host the party with alcohol and strippers.

"I was naive, I was young, I was sheltered," Evans said. "And I made a terrible judgment. In five months I've learned more than I did in 22 years about life."