Local News

Duke President Explains Reinstating Accused Lacrosse Players

Posted January 8, 2007 8:02 p.m. EST
Updated January 8, 2007 8:50 p.m. EST

— Duke University's president said Monday that his decision to reinstate Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann as students in good standing is about fairness.

Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J., and Finnerty, 20, of Garden City, N.Y., were invited back to campus last week after rape charges against them were dismissed before Christmas.

The two men left the university last spring after being indicted on charges related to an exotic dancer's claims that three Duke lacrosse players gang-raped, sodomized and beat her.

In an e-mail sent to the Duke community, Brodhead acknowledges that questions about Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong's handling of the case played a role in his decision.

He cites sworn testimony that Nifong did not share test results indicating that no DNA on the accuser matched any lacrosse player's DNA. He also writes that the decision was based on Nifong's dropping the rape charges because the accuser was no longer certain about her claim.

Brodhead acknowledges the pain the university has felt over the case and also acknowledges that the university has some work to do "to restore the fabric of mutual respect" on the campus.

"Though vehemently denied by the players, the accusations that resulted from the party raised deeply troubling questions about sexual violence and racial subjugation ... issues of fundamental concern to any decent community," Brodhead wrote.

The e-mail also reminds the Duke community that the legal system must be allowed to work, that the players are innocent until proven guilty and that the school's integrity must withstand the firestorm.

"We need and deserve for that faith (in the legal process) to be restored," Brodhead said.

Meanwhile, Seligmann has spoken in-depth for the first time about the case since an October "60 Minutes" interview.

In the current issue of Newsweek magazine, he says that he, Finnerty and David Evans, the third suspect in the case, talk regularly and that their mothers are also in close contact.

He also says that even though he misses his friends, classes and playing lacrosse, he has not decided if he will return to Duke, despite last week's invitation.

Seligmann he says he has promised his father that he will not let the investigation ruin his life. He says he has continued his studies at home, has volunteered at a local soup kitchen and has coached football at his former junior high school.

Seligmann also talks about the impact that the case has had on his family. He recalls his father's crying when they learned he was one of the players picked out of a photo lineup and describes the moment he told his mother.

"It was like the life was sucked out of her," he said.

As for the future, Seligmann, having already planned to go to law school, said he is now determined to be a criminal defense attorney.

"I always believed that the truth will trump everything. I have to believe that," he said.