People are jumping to conclusions. It's actually a bit more complicated than "she didn't know if she was penetrated." Please read on...
Rape Charges Dropped in Duke Case
From left, David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann.
By DUFF WILSON
and DAVID BARSTOW
Published: December 22, 2006
DURHAM, N.C., Dec. 22 — The district attorney today dropped rape charges against three former Duke University
lacrosse players, but plans to go forward with sexual assault and kidnapping charges, his office said. Michael B. Nifong, the Durham district attorney, made the decision after learning on Thursday that the woman who complained of rape could not be sure that she had been penetrated with a penis, a distinction that would determine whether what happened to her meets the legal definition of forcible rape in North Carolina, according to court papers filed today.
When she was interviewed on Thursday by an investigator from the district attorney’s office, the woman said she was penetrated from behind while she was bent over with her face toward the floor, but did not know with what, according to a person close to the investigation who would only speak on condition of anonymity.
Penetration with an object is considered sexual assault, not rape, officials said. There also is no DNA evidence found on the woman from any of the accused men, investigators have said. "With the absence of DNA and her not knowing what was going on, it’s the right thing to do and it probably makes the rest of the case stronger," the source said. The three former players, David F. Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade W. Seligmann, have vigorously denied any guilt and said they had no sexual contact with their accuser.
The woman, a 28-year-old African American student at North Carolina Central University, has said the three men raped her on March 13 in a bathroom at a Duke lacrosse team party where she was hired to perform as a stripper.
Joseph B. Cheshire, a lawyer who is representing Mr. Evans, said the change indicated that the district attorney’s case against the three men was weak. “Mr. Nifong and his accuser are continually changing their stories to fit new evidence,” he said today. A week ago, a laboratory director admitted in court that in the wake of an agreement with Mr. Nifong, he had violated his own procedures and withheld results showing that none of the lacrosse players’ DNA had been found on or in the accuser’s body. “This comes a week after it was shown they intentionally withheld exculpatory evidence on DNA tests,” Mr. Chesire said. “That begs the question of the extreme coincidence of the timing in which these two things occurred.”
He said that the remaining charges of first degree kidnapping and first degree sexual offense carry the same penalties the men would have faced under the rape charges. The case, with its various legal twists and turns, has become mired in issues of race, sex and privilege, and has attracted legions of followers nationally, from alumni to bloggers and activists for the black community who have taken sides with the men or their accuser.
In October, the three men talked to the CBS News program “60 Minutes” about the case, which has split the Durham community. The three are free on $100,000 bail while awaiting trial. Pre-trial proceedings are scheduled to begin in February.
Mr. Evans said on the program: “This woman has destroyed everything I worked for in my life. And, worst of all, she’s split apart a community and a nation on facts that just didn’t happen, and a lie that should have never been told.”
Today, one supporter of the woman, whose identity has not been revealed, said she still believes her. “I think when a woman has been sexually assaulted and sexually abused and she can’t explain everything, when you have had three men attacking you, I can understand if she wouldn’t know if she was raped by a penis or other item,” said Victoria Peterson, who is active in the black community in Durham and is a friend of the accuser’s family.
The district attorney filed a document in Superior Court here just before noon officially dismissing the rape charges against the three. The document said that in an interview with investigator Linwood Wilson, “the victim in this case indicated that while she initially believed that she had been vaginally penetrated by a male sex organ (penis), she cannot at this time testify with certainly that a penis was the body part that penetrated her vagina.” It went on to say: “Since penetration of the vagina by a penis is one of the elements of this offense that the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, and since there is no scientific or other evidence independent of the victim’s testimony that would corroborate specifically penetration by a penis, the state is unable to meet its burden of proof with respect to this offense.”