Local News

Source: Cleared Duke Lacrosse Players Seek $30M From Durham

Posted September 7, 2007 6:14 a.m. EDT
Updated September 7, 2007 6:08 p.m. EDT

— The three Duke lacrosse players who were falsely accused of rape are seeking a $30 million settlement and reforms in the legal process, a person close to the case told The Associated Press Friday.

If the terms aren't met, the attorneys will file a civil rights lawsuit early next month, the person close to the case said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the proposed settlement wasn't complete.

During a discussion Wednesday with Durham officials, players' attorneys Brendan Sullivan and Barry Scheck stressed that the money they are seeking in the settlement – about $10 million each for David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann over five years – must be accompanied by legal reforms, the person said.

The attorneys are seeking the creation of ombudsman positions to review complaints of misconduct about North Carolina district attorneys, and they want Durham city officials to lead the lobbying for any legal changes that would require action by the state's General Assembly, the person said.

Katherine Franke, a Columbia University civil rights law professor, said while the players' reputations were damaged in a national setting, the settlement request is beyond normal standards of about $1 million.

"It strikes me as well off the charts from what one would normally get in a case like that," Franke said. "But it's the political nature of the case: How much is it worth to the city to get rid of this case given the outrage?"

Durham's police department helped former District Attorney Mike Nifong secure indictments against Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann, and a special committee probing police handling of the case stopped working last month because the city's liability insurance provider warned that findings could provide material for civil lawsuits.

In a closed session Thursday, city attorney Henry Blinder briefed the council for more than two hours about his meeting. City officials decided not to comment about the possible lawsuit.

Some, however, have said they believe the special committee should continue its work.

"There were mistakes made in this case, and there needs to be accountability, and the city needs to accept that accountability," City Councilman Thomas Stith III said.

Mayor Bill Bell and at least three City Council members called for the probe in May following an internal department report that found no wrongdoing on investigators' part.

Bell said the report lacked focus and left questions about the investigation unanswered.

The North Carolina attorney general eventually threw out the case and declared Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann innocent victims of a "tragic rush to accuse."