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Report questions Duke accuser

Statements conflict, N.C. prosecutors say

By Jeff Barker

Sun Reporter

April 28, 2007

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A year after claiming she was raped by three Duke lacrosse players during a party at an off-campus house, a woman continued to make contradictory statements, including saying she was assaulted by 10 people in the backyard, a new report said.

The report, released yesterday by special prosecutors from the North Carolina Attorney General's Office, cast further doubts on the accuser's credibility while attempting to provide an account of what happened on the evening of March 13, 2006.

The report was released 16 days after state Attorney General Roy Cooper announced the dismissal of the remaining charges against Bethesda's David Evans and former teammates Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann. Cooper said the lack of evidence "led us to the conclusion that no attack occurred" in March 2006 and that the athletes were victims of "unchecked" prosecutorial power by Durham County District Attorney Michael B. Nifong.

The report, which summarizes the special prosecutors' findings, said the woman, hired as an exotic dancer for the party, told authorities that:

• Evans and Seligmann threw her onto the back porch after the alleged assault and that the pair, plus Finnerty, kicked her in the neck.

• Ten people at the party assaulted her in the backyard "by pushing her around."

• Photos of her dancing in the house had been altered.

• The sexual assault lasted 20 to 30 minutes. She had said in December that it lasted 10-15 minutes ending at midnight.

The report indicated there was no evidence that any of these statements, made March 29 this year, were true.

It said the accuser also made "contradictory and inconsistent statements" about whether an attack occurred at all.

"Sometime around 1:30 a.m. on March 14, 2006, the accusing witness did not disclose that any sexual assault occurred to the first law enforcement officer she encountered that night, Sgt. J.C. Shelton," the report said. "She was then taken to the Durham Center Access, where in response to a question by a nurse about whether she had been raped, she responded 'yes,' " the report said.

Nifong brought the case after the woman said she had been pulled into a bathroom and raped. In the midst of a re-election campaign, Nifong vowed last spring to pursue the case despite a lack of DNA evidence. At the time, demonstrators on the campus and in Durham were demanding that the players be brought to justice.

The report is certain to be studied by lawyers who have debated in the media whether Nifong could be held liable for civil damages. Nifong is already defending himself against North Carolina bar accusations of professional misconduct that could lead to his disbarment.

The report said the accuser and another stripper arrived at the house after Dan Flannery, then a team captain, used an alias to call an escort service and request two white dancers for a "small bachelor party." The dancers who arrived were black.

It said the accuser "appeared to be unsteady on her feet and fell to the ground" while performing. Her speech was slurred during an interview with prosecutors more than a year later, and the authorities said they confirmed she had taken a number of prescription drugs - Ambien, Paxil, methadone and amitriptyline - before the meeting.

During the dancing, there was "sexual banter" between those at the party and the other stripper, the report said. "This culminated in one of the attendees holding up a broomstick and suggesting its use as a sexual object for the dancers."

The report said the other dancer "was angered by this comment and the performance abruptly ended."

Some of the partygoers felt "cheated," the report said, because the dancers had barely done their routine despite being paid $400 apiece.

But it said there was no medical or witness evidence to support the accuser's claims of being attacked.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com