Local News

Duke Adds to Legal Team in Lacrosse Lawsuit Fight

Posted February 6, 2008 11:58 a.m. EST
Updated February 6, 2008 4:58 p.m. EST

— A former U.S. deputy attorney general will help defend Duke University in a federal lawsuit filed by three 2005-2006 lacrosse players who were not indicted in the now-discredited rape investigation that made national headlines for more than a year.

Washington, D.C., attorney Jamie Gorelick joins the university's legal team to fight the civil lawsuit filed in December by Breck Archer, Ryan McFadyen and Matthew Wilson, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court this week.

Gorelick, a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr in Washington, D.C., served as deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration. She was also a member of the 9/11 Commission, which looked into the events and circumstances leading up to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Archer, McFadyen and Wilson accuse the university, the city of Durham, former District Attorney Mike Nifong and others, in part, of trying to "railroad 47 Duke University students as either principals or accomplices" based upon exotic dancer Crystal Mangum's claims that three lacrosse players raped and sexually assaulted at a party in March 2006.

They 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 men were among 46 of the team's 47 members who complied with a judge's order to provide DNA samples and be photographed. They allege to being subjected to condemnation before a national and international "day after day" following Mangum's allegations.

Last year, the university settled with the three former players who were indicted – David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann. Duke has called the lawsuit by Archer, McFadyen and Wilson  "misdirected" and has said it will "aggressively defend" itself.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped all charges against Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann in April, calling them innocent victims of a Nifong's "tragic rush to accuse."

Nifong was later disbarred for his handling of the case and spent a night in jail for lying to a judge.

He has since declared bankruptcy, citing more than $180 million in liabilities. Almost all of that amount is the estimated damages from pending litigation.