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Tuesday, April 11, 2006
District Attorney: Duke lacrosse case 'not going away'

Associated Press

DURHAM, N.C. -- Durham County's chief prosecutor said Tuesday he will not abandon his investigation of allegations that an exotic dancer was sexually assaulted and beaten at a party thrown by members of Duke University's lacrosse team.

Michael Nifong
District Attorney Mike Nifong, right, leaves a community forum Tuesday.

"A lot has been said in the press, particularly by some attorneys yesterday, that this case should go away," District Attorney Mike Nifong said at a community forum. "My presence here means that this case is not going away."

On Monday, attorneys representing members of the lacrosse team said DNA from 46 lacrosse players did not match evidence collected from the woman.

"No DNA from any young man tested was found anywhere on or about this woman," defense attorney Wade Smith said Monday.

He said he hoped Nifong would drop the investigation.

Source: Alleged victim was 'hysterical' at hospital
A source has provided ESPN with a detailed account of the exotic dancer's arrival at the hospital the night of the alleged sexual assault at a party thrown by members of the Duke men's lacrosse team.

The source, who asked to remain anonymous, was present at the hospital on the night of the alleged incident and says the woman was "beat up" but would not immediately divulge to anyone the identity of her alleged assailants.

"She was hysterical," the source said. "She was crying, she was pretty banged up. She said she was sexually assaulted, but she didn't say by whom."

The source says the woman entered the hospital well after midnight March 13 wearing a red nightgown and nothing on her feet. She was walking on her own, but there were bruises on her face, neck, and arms.

A triage nurse attended to her, but the woman did not want him to touch her because he was a man. She was then examined by a sexual assault nurse.

There were injuries to the woman's pelvic area, the source said.

According to the source, the woman did not immediately inform either the police or the hospital staff who inflicted the injuries to her.

"She never said one thing about Duke, any athlete or anything," the source said. "She just kept hollering and screaming. She never said who did it."

The woman was discharged after approximately five hours.

No charges have been filed. On Monday, attorneys representing members of the lacrosse team said DNA from 46 players did not match evidence collected from the woman, who is a student at North Carolina Central University.

The 27-year-old dancer told police she and another woman were hired to dance at the party, located on Buchanan Street, which is within walking distance of the Duke campus and the hospital. The woman told police that three men at the party dragged her into a bathroom, choked her, raped her and sodomized her. The allegations have led to days of protests on and off the Duke campus.

-- Eric Adelson, ESPN The Magazine

No charges have been filed in the case, but Nifong has said he believes a crime occurred at the March 13 party, which according to court records was attended only by lacrosse players.

Nifong stopped short of confirming the defense assessment of the DNA results, but said the case would not be hampered by a lack of DNA evidence.

"It doesn't mean nothing happened," Nifong said at a public forum at North Carolina Central University, where the 27-year-old alleged victim is a student. "It just means nothing was left behind."

No charges have been filed.

Nifong said prosecutors were awaiting a second set of DNA results, but did not say how those differed from the tests reported Monday. Nifong added that in 75 percent to 80 percent of sexual assaults, there is no DNA evidence to analyze.

The district attorney said a rape case can be built on testimony from the alleged victim and other witnesses. Nifong also said the hospital exam of the woman has led him to believe a crime occurred at the March 13 party.

According to court documents, a doctor and a specially trained nurse found the alleged victim had "signs, symptoms and injuries consistent with being raped and sexually assaulted.''

"My presence here means this case is not going away," Nifong said to applause from an audience of about 700 people.

Shawn Cunningham, a student at N.C. Central, told Nifong and Durham Mayor Bill Bell that he was angry with people who he said were blaming the alleged victim.

"The press has disrespected this young lady," he said. "You have minimalized [her] to a stripper and an exotic dancer. You don't identify her as a mother. You don't identify her as a student. You don't identify her as a woman."

The 27-year-old woman told police she and another woman were hired to dance at the party. The woman told police that three men at the party dragged her into a bathroom, choked her, raped her and sodomized her. The allegations led to days of protests on and off the Duke campus.

Nifong said that he has never engaged in racial favoritism and that arresting suspects too quickly could harm the case.

"I have been criticized by both sides in this case," he said. "There have been people who have said that I should have given up this case a long time ago, and there are people who have said I should have already indicted, moved against somebody with some charges. The fact is that this case is proceeding the way a case should proceed."

Nifong later told a questioner, who asserted the victim had positively identified her three attackers, that her information was wrong.

Nifong refused to take any questions from reporters after the forum.

Bill Thomas, a defense attorney for one of the team captains, urged the accuser to recant, saying he believes she made up the allegations to avoid a charge of public drunkenness.

"It is my sincere hope that she comes forward and tells the truth in this matter and allows these young men to go on with their lives and for this community to heal," Thomas said.