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Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Updated: March 31, 10:44 PM ET
Duke's lacrosse team suspended pending DNA results news services

DURHAM, N.C. -- About a third of the members of the Duke men's lacrosse team -- embroiled in a rape investigation that caused the school to suspend the team from playing -- have been previously charged with misdemeanors stemming from drunken and disruptive behavior in the past three years, according to court documents quoted in Tuesday's editions of the Raleigh News and Observer.

Fifteen of the 47 members of the team have been charged with offenses ranging from underage alcohol possession, violating open container laws, loud noise and public urination, according to the News and Observer.

The paper said that most of those charges were resolved in deals with prosecutors that allowed the players to escape criminal convictions.

Duke protest
Demonstrators listen to Duke University president Richard Brodhead on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Duke University's president suspended the school's highly ranked lacrosse team from play until school administrators learn more about allegations that several team members raped an exotic dancer at an off-campus party.

"In this painful period of uncertainty, it is clear to me, as it was to the players, that it would be inappropriate to resume the normal schedule of play," president Richard Brodhead said Tuesday.

Brodhead met with students Wednesday morning to discuss the incident in a forum closed to reporters, Duke spokesman Geoffrey Mock said.

"It was a meeting at which the students could share their thoughts about the topic," Mock said. He did not know how many attended but said the meeting was open to all students.

"I don't want to say I'm satisfied, but I will say that what happened in there makes me feel like we're moving in a good direction," sophomore Bridgette Howard said after the roughly hourlong session.

"We understand that the legal system is that you are innocent until proven guilty," said sophomore Kristin High. "But people are nervous and afraid that these people are going to get away with what they did because of a wealthy privilege, or male privilege, or a white privilege."

A woman told police she and another dancer were hired to perform March 13 at a private party in an off-campus home. The dancer, a student at North Carolina Central University, told police she was pulled into a bathroom, beaten, choked and raped by three men.

No one has been charged.

Police took DNA samples with a cheek swab from 46 of the lacrosse team's 47 players last week. The 47th player, the only black member of the team, did not have to provide DNA because the dancer said her attackers were white. The dancer is black.

Police said three players who live at the house where the party took place spoke with investigators and voluntarily provided samples March 16. A scheduled meeting between detectives and the rest of the team was later canceled by the players' attorney, and District Attorney Mike Nifong said Wednesday the players still refuse to speak with investigators.

"I needed to have the information about who will be charged," said District Attorney Mike Nifong said. "I feel pretty confident that a rape occurred."

Brodhead said team captains notified athletic director Joe Alleva on Tuesday that players wanted to stay off the field until the DNA results came back from a crime lab. In a statement, the captains predicted the DNA testing would clear the players of wrongdoing.

The case has roiled the campus and raised racial tensions. It has also heightened antagonism between the affluent students at Duke, which costs about $43,000 a year, and the city of Durham, which has a large population of poor people and is about evenly divided between white and black.

"The circumstances of the rape indicated a deep racial motivation for some of the things that were done," Nifong said. "It makes a crime that is by its nature one of the most offensive and invasive even more so."

Nifong said the team members are standing together and refusing to talk with investigators, and he warned he may bring aiding-and-abetting charges against some of the players.

A lawyer representing several lacrosse team members did not immediately return calls Tuesday.

Angry over the team members' silence and the university's handling of the case, Durham residents have demonstrated on and off campus in the past few days. They rallied outside the house where the alleged attack occurred and gathered outside of Duke provost Peter Lange's home, where they banged on pots and pans until he emerged to answer questions.

Lange said Monday that he believes "the students would be well-advised to come forward. They have chosen not to."

Alleva had already forced the team to miss two games because of underage drinking and the hiring of dancers at the party. Duke, considered a national title contender before the season began, has a 6-2 record with five regular-season games to go.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report