Local News

Waiting Part of a 'Horrific' Year for Duke Lacrosse Father

Posted April 10, 2007 3:49 p.m. EDT
Updated April 10, 2007 4:51 p.m. EDT

— In the year since his son became one of three Duke University lacrosse players accused of sexually assaulting a stripper, Kevin Finnerty says it hasn't gotten any easier for his family to trudge through each day.

They know Collin Finnerty could face a long prison sentence if convicted -- a prospect they consider unthinkable. But there is little they can do now but wait for state prosecutors, who took over the case earlier this year from Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, to decide whether to drop the charges or bring their 20-year-old son and his teammates to trial.

"We've never been through anything like this," Kevin Finnerty said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from his home in Garden City, N.Y. "This is our son's life at stake, and it's just not over until it's over. I would say that we know that we have the truth on our side and from the outset we've felt the truth will prevail.

"In some ways, I'd say Collin is a much better man than I could ever hope to be," Finnerty said.

Collin Finnerty, Reade Seligmann and David Evans were indicted on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual offense last spring after a woman told police she was assaulted at a March 2006 team party where she was hired to perform as a stripper. All three have steadfastly maintained their innocence, with Evans calling the allegations "fantastic lies."

Nifong dropped rape charges in December after the accuser changed a key detail in her story, and recused himself a few weeks later after the state bar charged with several ethics violations tied to his handling of the case. If convicted, Nifong could be disbarred.

That put the players' fate in the hands of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper. Though many legal experts have called the case unwinnable, the players face more than 30 years in prison if convicted on the remaining charges.
While Evans graduated the day before he was indicted in May, Duke temporarily suspended sophomores Finnerty and Seligmann in the wake of their arrest. Finnerty was also convicted in July in an unrelated assault case in Washington, D.C., and sentenced to six months of probation.

It's all part of what Kevin Finnerty described as "a horrific year."

"The waiting process is wearing us down emotionally," he said. "We take comfort in the fact that these prosecutors are searching for the truth. And that's different from how we felt before their involvement."

In the past year, Finnerty has worked as a volunteer with children who lost family in the terrorist attacks of September 11 while also taking courses at Hofstra University. He is currently working as a volunteer assistant lacrosse coach at his alma mater, Chaminade High School.

Should the charges be dropped, Finnerty's educational future is uncertain. Although Duke has invited both Finnerty and Seligmann to return to campus, neither has accepted the offer.

John Danowski, the former coach at Hofstra who took over the Duke program last summer, also has said often that both Finnerty and Seligmann are welcome to continue their lacrosse careers with the Blue Devils.

Several other coaches have contacted Finnerty about playing at their schools, Kevin Finnerty said, adding the odds were "low" that his son would return to Duke. But, he said, that decision would be left up to his son.

"I think if Mike Nifong were still the acting district attorney, it would be a very easy decision for Collin not to return," he said.