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Duke lacrosse accuser speaks out about arrest

A Durham woman who falsely accused three Duke athletes of rape four years ago said Wednesday that her past makes it difficult for her to be treated fairly by the justice system.

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DURHAM, N.C. — A Durham woman who falsely accused three Duke University athletes of rape four years ago said Wednesday that her past makes it difficult for her to be treated fairly by the justice system.

Crystal Mangum was arrested in February and charged with attempted first-degree murder, five counts of arson, assault and battery, communicating threats, three counts of misdemeanor child abuse, injury to personal property, identity theft and resisting a public officer.

Police said she assaulted her boyfriend, Milton Walker, set his clothes on fire in a bathtub and threatened to stab him.

"I am being unfairly treated due to preconceived notions that people had about me concerning another case," Mangum said in a news conference on the porch of a friend's house, where she is staying while under house arrest while awaiting trial.

The Durham County District Attorney's Office declined to comment on Mangum's allegations because of the pending case, and a spokeswoman said the Durham Police Department had no comment.

Mangum said she had gone to the hospital early in the morning on the day she was arrested to have fluid drained from her spine to relieve migraine pain she was suffering.

"I was barely able to walk because I had a spinal tap done," she said.

She said she got into an argument with Walker and asked him to leave. She said he then hit her in the face, prompting one of her children to call 911.

"I am, if anything, the victim of domestic violence," she said.

She said she doesn't know who set the fire in bathtub, but it wasn't her. She acknowledged that she gave the police a fake name when they arrived at the house in response to the 911 call, noting that she feared their response if they knew she was the accuser in the Duke lacrosse case.

While a student at North Carolina Central University in 2006, Mangum worked as an exotic dancer and performed at a party for Duke lacrosse team members. She claimed three white players trapped her inside a bathroom and raped and sexually assaulted her.

The three players were indicted on rape and other charges on the basis of her allegations, but they were eventually exonerated after North Carolina's attorney general found no credible evidence to support the charges.

During the February incident, Mangum said, she and Walker were both in handcuffs initially.

"It wasn't until the other three police cars got there and said that I was Crystal Mangum, that's when they took the handcuffs off of my boyfriend and they put me in the police car and told me I was going to jail," she said.

Although Mangum's public defender advised her against holding the news conference, she said she felt she had to speak to the media to set the record straight about her arrest.

"I think my attorney has my best interest at heart, but the judicial system doesn’t," she said.

Still, she said she is prepared to go to trial to clear her name and regain custody of her three children, ages 10, 9 and 3.

"I just want my life back," she said.