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Duke reaches settlement with 3 falsely accused lacrosse players

They may sue the prosecutor, Dist. Atty. Mike Nifong, whom a judge orders to leave office at once.

June 19, 2007|Jenny Jarvie | Times Staff Writer

ATLANTA — Duke University said Monday that it had reached an undisclosed financial settlement with three former lacrosse team players falsely accused of raping an exotic dancer.

David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann were indicted on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual offense after the woman told police she was attacked at a March 2006 team party. Evans, a senior, graduated the day before he was indicted. Finnerty and Seligmann, who were sophomores, were suspended. The school in Durham, N.C., also canceled the remainder of the team's games that season and forced the coach to resign.

All three players proclaimed their innocence from the start.

"We welcomed their exoneration and deeply regret the difficult year they and their families have had to endure," Duke President Richard Brodhead and the Board of Trustees said in a statement. "They conducted themselves with great dignity during their long ordeal.... It is in the best interests of the Duke community to eliminate the possibility of future litigation and move forward."

North Carolina Atty. Gen. Roy Cooper dropped all charges against the players in April, saying they were the victims of a "rogue prosecutor" who engaged in a "rush to condemn."

On Saturday, a disciplinary committee of North Carolina's State Bar stripped Durham County Dist. Atty. Mike Nifong of his law license and banned him from practicing in that state after finding him guilty of withholding evidence, lying to the courts and making prejudicial pretrial statements in the case.

Nifong, who announced his resignation last week, released a letter Monday to North Carolina Gov. Michael F. Easley, saying he planned to leave office July 13. But Monday night, Durham County Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson suspended Nifong and ordered him to immediately cease any duties as district attorney.

The families of the former players are estimated to have spent more than $3 million in legal fees. Defense lawyers have said they are considering filing civil suits against Nifong.

Some have criticized Duke University for not doing more to support the students. But the three men, who have not sued the university, issued a conciliatory statement Monday.

"We were drawn to Duke because of its sense of community," it said. "The events of the last year tore the Duke community apart, and forcibly separated us from the University we love.... Throughout our ordeal ... we never forgot the lessons we learned, both on and off the field, about character, integrity, and honor."

They said they hoped to work with the university to develop initiatives that would "prevent similar injustices and ensure that the lessons of the last year are never forgotten."

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