Local News

Second Federal Suit Filed in Duke Lacrosse Case

Posted December 18, 2007 12:55 p.m. EST
Updated December 18, 2007 8:16 p.m. EST

— Mike Nifong, the city of Durham and Duke University face another lawsuit stemming from the now-discredited criminal investigation involving three members of Duke's 2006 men's lacrosse team.

Ryan McFadyen, Matthew Wilson and Breck Archer filed the federal lawsuit Monday accusing dozens of defendants of fraud, negligence and conspiracy for pursuing the case despite evidence that the rape allegations were false.

"This case is a reckoning; it is an accounting of those who were willing to obstruct and pervert justice to serve their own selfish aims, those who had the power to intervene and did not, and the damage they have done," the lawsuit reads.

The players are seeking a jury trial and unspecified compensation for past and future economic loss, harm to their reputations, loss of privacy and other damages.

The 391-page complaint alleges the defendants tried to "railroad 47 Duke University students as either principals or accomplices based upon Crystal Mangum's allegations of rape and kidnapping."

"For 13 months, the defendants and others not yet named in this action conspired and colluded to subject plaintiffs and their teammates to public outrage and condemnation before a national and international audience, day after day," the lawsuit states.

"Throughout this affair, those who had the power to destroy Ryan, Matt, Breck and their teammates acted to destroyed (sic) them; and Duke University, with the statutory authority and power to intervene to prevent the wrongs being committed upon their own students, refused to intervene."

Duke President Richard Brodhead, Duke faculty, the Duke University Police Department, former Durham Police Chief Steve Chalmers, City Manager Patrick Baker and Brian Meehan, former director of DNA Security Inc., the private lab that performed a second round of DNA tests in the case, are among others named in the lawsuit.

Duke, which has settled previous lawsuits stemming from the case, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon saying the suit is "misdirected" and that it will "aggressively defend the university."

"The university offered many months ago to reimburse the attorneys' fees and other out-of-pocket expenses of the players whose lives were disrupted but who were not indicted. We were and remain disappointed those offers were not accepted," the statement read.

The city of Durham issued a statement saying it believes the "lawsuit is without merit" and that it "will vigorously defend the city and its employees in court."

Others named in the suit had no comment or calls were not immediately returned. A number at Nifong's home had been disconnected, and attorney Jim Craven, who has represented Nifong in the past, was in court on another case.

The plaintiffs' attorney, Robert Ekstrand of Durham, also had no comment.

Over the course of the 13-month investigation, the suit alleges the defendants conspired to "conceal the overwhelming evidence of innocence they found or knew to exist very early on."

The lawsuit comes nearly two months after the three players who were indicted in the case – David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann – filed a civil rights lawsuit charging that Nifong, Durham police officers and others conspired to keep a weak case alive because of the then-district attorney's political aspirations.

McFadyen, Wilson and Archer were members of the lacrosse team when Mangum told police she was raped at a March 2006 team party where she was hired as a stripper.

The men were among 46 of the team's 47 members who complied with a judge's order to provide DNA samples and be photographed. The team's sole black member was not tested because Mangum said her attackers were white.

Duke suspended McFadyen amid the criminal investigation for an e-mail he sent shortly after the team party in which he described how he would kill and skin strippers, according to court documents.

Administrators later reinstated McFadyen, noting that his remarks were "in jest" and a take-off from "American Psycho," a Bret Easton Ellis novel that was made into a movie about a serial killer.

The lawsuit accuses Nifong and police investigators of failing to include the context of the e-mail in the warrant they used to search McFadyen's dorm room. The search warrant later became public record.

"They knew that Ryan's e-mail, taken out of context, would accelerate the firestorm," the lawsuit said.

McFadyen of Mendham, N.J., is a senior listed on the 2007-08 Blue Devils roster. Wilson, of Durham, and Archer, of East Quogue, N.Y., were listed as seniors on the spring 2006-07 roster, and it was unclear whether they still attend the university.

The complaint is not the first lawsuit from an unindicted lacrosse player. In January, Kyle Dowd filed a civil suit against Duke University, claiming an instructor gave him a failing grade because he was a lacrosse player.

Dowd claimed the grade, given to him by visiting professor Kim Curtis, nearly kept him from graduating. He and the university settled in May, but the details of the settlement were not disclosed.