Local News

Lawsuit Threat Puts Panel Probing Durham PD in 'Holding Pattern'

Posted August 27, 2007 5:35 p.m. EDT
Updated August 27, 2007 7:00 p.m. EDT

— The threat of a federal lawsuit could possibly derail the independent committee investigating the Durham Police Department's handling of the Duke lacrosse case.

Civil attorneys representing David Evans, Collin Finnerty and David Evans recently contacted the city's legal department notifying them that they are considering filing a lawsuit, city spokeswoman Beverly Thompson confirmed Monday.

No civil lawsuit has been filed, and it is unclear who could be sued – the city or the police department.

But the 12-member panel is in a "holding pattern" until city attorneys meet with the former defendants' attorneys, Thompson said in a news release issued Monday afternoon.

That meeting is scheduled for Sept. 5.

The city also received notification from its insurance carrier reminding it of its contractual duties to cooperate under policy provisions, "which would include not engaging in activities that might compromise a subsequent defense of an action against the city," the news release said.

When reached for comment Monday, Durham Mayor Bill Bell confirmed the attorneys' meeting, but he would not comment further on the matter.

Monday's news release said city attorneys will brief the City Council on Sept. 6 in a special closed-session meeting.

Bell and members of the City Council called for the independent investigation in May following an internal police department report that found detectives did nothing wrong in conducting their investigation into exotic dancer Crystal Mangum's allegations that Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann raped, sexually assaulted and beat her at a party in March 2006.

During its first meeting last month, the 12-member committee heard from defense attorneys, who argued that officers, under the direction of then-District Attorney Mike Nifong, conducted an investigation directed toward proving the truth of the accuser's story and the guilt of the defendants rather than trying to determine what happened.

Nifong, who was suspended as district attorney and disbarred this summer, dismissed rape charges against all three players in December, and Attorney General Roy Cooper dismissed the case in April, declaring them innocent.