Local News

Duke Lacrosse Suit Adds Baker as New Defendant

Posted December 11, 2007 6:07 p.m. EST
Updated December 11, 2007 6:20 p.m. EST

— Three former Duke lacrosse players who have sued Durham and a number of officials in federal court added Durham City Manager Patrick Baker as a defendant on Tuesday, the same day the city said Baker will shift from manager to city attorney.

The players’ revised lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Greensboro, also added an allegation that city leaders, including baker, browbeat two police officers to push ahead with the case to satisfy community demands even though evidence was indicating Reade Seligmann, David Evans and Collin Finnerty were not guilty.

The suit already named the city of Durham, former District Attorney Mike Nifong, former police Chief Steve Chalmers and several police detectives and officers. The players want the defendants punished "for outrageous conduct pursued out of actual malice" that violated the players' civil rights.

In adding Baker, the players’ amended suit said, “Defendant Patrick Baker is and was, at all times relevant to this action, the City Manager for the City of Durham, North Carolina. In that position, Baker served in a supervisory and/or policymaking capacity for the City of Durham and the Durham Police Department.”

The revised suit also alleged that “on or about March 29, 2006,” Baker, Chalmers and others called two Durham police officers – Investigator Benjamin Himan and Detective Mark Gottlieb – to a meeting about the case against the players.

At the meeting, the players’ attorneys wrote, “Himan and Gottlieb were ordered or otherwise pressured to expedite the identifications and arrests of Duke lacrosse players, notwithstanding the evidence demonstrating Plaintiffs’ innocence.”

That was done “in order to satisfy a Durham community that had been misled by the false and inflammatory Nifong Statements and Durham Police Statements into believing that three white Duke lacrosse players had committed a violent and racially-motivated gang rape,” the court papers say.

Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann were charged in April and May 2006 after exotic dancer Crystal Mangum claimed she was raped at an off-campus party hosted by lacrosse players in March 2006. Even as the case began to unravel, Nifong pursued charges of first-degree rape, kidnapping and sexual assault until December, when he dismissed the rape charge against the three men.

Less than a month later, he recused himself from the case and asked for a special prosecutor to handle it. Earlier this year, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped the case, saying his special prosecutors had found no grounds to proceed.

The lawsuit calls for the appointment of an independent monitor who would oversee the police department for 10 years and have the power to hire, fire and promote police department personnel, including the chief of police. The monitor would answer only to the federal court.

Seligmann, Evans and Finnerty also want to change photo-identification lineups like the one that helped secure their indictments. One thing they want is to have all identification procedures, both formal and informal, videotaped.