Local News

Unindicted Duke Lacrosse Players Plan Federal Lawsuit

Posted February 20, 2008 6:46 p.m. EST
Updated February 21, 2008 11:53 a.m. EST

— More than three dozen current and former Duke lacrosse players plan to file a federal lawsuit against the university, the city of Durham and others involved in the case, according to the players' lawyer.

A spokesman for Washington-based attorney Charles J. Cooper said the civil lawsuit would be filed today on behalf of 38 players who were not charged in the notorious case.

Criminal defense attorney and former Wake County Assistant District Attorney Hart Miles said he thinks the unindicted players are trying to redeem their reputations, which they likely feel were tarnished.

“Obviously, the university and whoever else is mentioned can't put these players back in the position they were before the case broke. What they're trying to do is be compensated for that loss,” Miles said.

Former Durham County prosecutor Mike Nifong won indictments against  lacrosse players David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann in 2006, accusing them of raping exotic dancer Crystal Mangum at a team party.

Shortly after Mangum claimed she was raped at 610 Buchanan Blvd., the university canceled the rest of the lacrosse season, and the coach resigned.

The case eventually unraveled amid Mangum's changing her story and a lack of evidence. Nifong dismissed rape charges, and state prosecutors who took over the case at Nifong's request dropped all other charges and said the accused players were innocent. Nifong was later disbarred for his handling of the case.

Still, Miles said, it seems Duke lacrosse is forever linked to that case.

“Duke lacrosse and the word 'rape' are used together when the conversation turns to Duke lacrosse,” Miles said.

Spokesman Robert Bork Jr. declined Wednesday night to release the specific allegations that he said would be made in the 30-count, 100-page lawsuit.

"It covers a whole lot of things, including violation of privacy," Bork said. "It's not just emotional distress."

Duke officials declined to comment Wednesday night.

“It'll be up to the lawyers and their clients to present the best evidence they have to show they were injured in those ways,” Miles said.

The three accused players reached an undisclosed financial settlement with Duke in June. They later filed their own federal civil rights lawsuit against Nifong, the City of Durham and the police detectives who handled the case.

That case is pending, as is a separate federal lawsuit filed by three unindicted players who sued the university, Nifong and dozens of others for inflicting emotional distress.