Families' wait is almost over

Duke lacrosse families anticipated a decision as soon as today on whether North Carolina special prosecutors would dismiss charges against three former players accused of sexually assaulting a woman at an off-campus party.

Parents of the indicted players and of current team members have long said they wanted to be present when prosecutors from the state attorney general's office announced a decision that the families believe will exonerate the defendants.


Many were making plans yesterday to travel to Raleigh-Durham.

Parents and legal observers say they will look closely at the decision's wording. The lacrosse program's supporters hope the decision will not only drop the remaining charges, but also register disapproval of Durham County District Attorney Michael B. Nifong for bringing the case against Collin Finnerty of Garden City, N.Y., Reade Seligmann of Essex Fells, N.J., and David Evans of Bethesda.


Nifong asked to be taken off the case in January after ethics charges were lodged against him by the North Carolina State Bar. The attorney general's office then conducted its own investigation.

"I think the critical thing could be the wording," Duke law professor Paul Haagen said. "It could simply say the state can no longer prove its case, which would be a very harmful outcome for the community." Or, Haagen said, the decision "could provide a full accounting of why the case should never have been brought."

Many parents planned to travel to Durham this weekend anyway to watch Duke, which has won five of six, play defending national champion Virginia. Now they'll be going earlier than planned and hoping for good news.

"I pray that those who rushed to judgment and condemned these innocent boys will find the courage to admit their mistakes and will apologize for the damage they have caused," said Sally Fogarty, of Chevy Chase, whose son, Gibbs, is a sophomore on the team.

She called the accusations "a complete fabrication by a desperate woman."

The accuser, a student at North Carolina Central University, alleged she was pulled into a bathroom and raped during a March 13, 2006, party at a house rented by three team captains. She has periodically changed her statements since then about what happened, according to court documents and Duke reports.

Many North Carolina Central students support her and say she has been discredited because she lacks money and influence.

On March 28, 2006, Duke indefinitely suspended the lacrosse program until there was a clearer legal resolution. The team began playing again this year.