Local News

Durham Leaders Respond To Duke Committee Report

Posted Updated

DURHAM, N.C. — Durham city leaders on Tuesday responded to a Duke University committee report on the school's response to a woman's claims that she was raped and beaten by three lacrosse players.

The report, which criticized Duke administrators for their slow response to the allegations, suggested that police initially thought the accuser lacked credibility because she kept changing her story.

The day after the March 13 team party where the accuser said she was raped, Durham police told Duke officers that "this will blow over," the report said. It said that the woman initially told police she was raped by 20 white men, then said she was attacked by three.

Police told the Duke officers that if any charges were filed, "they would be no more than misdemeanors," the report said.

On Tuesday, Durham Mayor Bill Bell said the information, which was released Monday, was the first he had heard about the accuser switching her story since the allegations surfaced. All the briefings he had been given about the case, he said, never included that information.

City Manager Patrick Baker said he was disappointed that no one at the Durham Police Department was interviewed for the report, and that, in his opinion, there is no way to know if the report is credible.

He said it contradicts the actions of the police department, and how the investigators proceeded with the case proves the rape allegation was taken seriously.

"We immediately launched a full-scale investigation," Baker said. "We assigned two officers. Within days, we were meeting with the complaining witness. We also searched the residence (where the alleged rape occurred) and made arrangements to interview the entire team for the following week."

Police sources, however, told WRAL that before all the facts were even known, a Durham officer was telling other officers in the department that the alleged rape was a fake rape.

"I would expect all of our police officers to take accusations of rape seriously and proceed to investigate them," Bell said.

Both Bell and Baker said they have asked Durham Police Chief Steve Chalmers to investigate the new information and that they want to know exactly who, if anyone, made such comments.

The Durham Police Department has not commented on the lacrosse rape investigation for six weeks and declined to comment on the report Monday night.

Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong said on Tuesday that his office has had problems in the past with the insensitivity of a responding officer investigating a rape case, and that it was not uncommon.

So far, two players have been indicted and charged in connection with the rape allegations. Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty each face charges of first-degree rape, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree sexual assault.

Wade Smith, one of Finnerty's defense attorneys, has said that the information in the report will help the defense's case.

"One would think that a person's impressions near the moment when it happened would be more valuable than a person's impression six months or one year later," Smith said.

Finnerty and Seligmann are scheduled to appear in a Durham County Superior Court next Thursday. Defense attorneys have said, however, that it is likely the case will be continued.

Nifong has said he plans to charge a third player in the case. His next chance to take the case to a grand jury would be Monday.