The Duke lacrosse players are seeking justice. They deserve it:
Duke University will be sued by 38 members of the 2006 men’s lacrosse team who claim they suffered emotional distress when school officials failed to support them during a rape investigation, a spokesman for the players said.
The lawsuit, to be filed today in U.S. District Court in North Carolina, also will name Duke President Richard Brodhead, Duke’s medical center, and the city of Durham, North Carolina, according to a statement posted on a Web site run by players’ spokesman Bob Bork. University officials remained silent during the rape probe though they had evidence that the players were innocent, according to the statement.
“These young men want acknowledgment that they were wronged by institutions and individuals that they trusted to treat them honestly,” attorney Chuck Cooper said in the statement. “They were victimized by a corrupt investigation that ignored or suppressed evidence that would have cleared them. And, all for a crime that never took place.”
Three players were charged in the case. The prosecution of team members David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann began with a stripper’s accusation that she was attacked after dancing at a team party. The charges were dropped in April after state Attorney General Roy Cooper took over the investigation.
More than three dozen members of the 2006 Duke University men’s lacrosse team and members of their families filed suit against Duke University, its President Richard Brodhead and other officials, Duke’s medical center, and the City of Durham and city officials for emotional distress and other injuries in connection with false rape charges and a corrupt police investigation against team members in 2006.The charges were dismissed and the players exonerated by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper in April 2007 after he took over the investigation from the local district attorney, Michael Nifong. Nifong was disbarred for violating legal ethics in his conduct of the investigation. Three players had been charged with a gang rape of an exotic dancer who was hired to entertain at a team party in March 2006.
The suit, filed today in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, said University officials remained silent even though they possessed convincing evidence of the
players’ innocence and also “lent credibility to the rape allegations by capitulating to an angry mob’s demands to condemn and punish the innocent players and their blameless coach.”
University Leaders Stood Silent While Team Members Were Harassed
“For more then a year, the lacrosse players were caught up in a horrifying personal nightmare. They were harassed in class by teachers and their fellow students. They were the target of protest marches and threats; they were called rapists and racists; they were surrounded in their own homes by screaming protestors. They were victimized by a corrupt investigation that ignored or suppressed evidence that would have cleared them. And, all for a crime that never took place,” lead attorney Chuck Cooper said in announcing the lawsuit.
The suit says that Brodhead and other Duke officials actively blinded themselves to and suppressed exculpatory evidence; discredited exculpatory evidence that had been publicly disclosed; stood passively while faculty and student protestors waged a campaign of abuse and harassment against the lacrosse team members; issued statements and imposed discipline on the team that signaled the players’ guilt; and remained silent when an inexperienced nurse at its medical center falsely characterized a medical exam at Duke Hospital as indicating that a rape had taken place. Brodhead later conceded that Duke students and faculty “were quick to speak as if the charges were true.”
Cooper said the University turned its back on the players in a bid to protect its own image.
Cooper noted that Nifong could not be named in the lawsuit because of the protections offered him by federal bankruptcy law. But the suit strongly condemned Nifong and his investigators for hiding and fabricating evidence, tampering with and intimidating witnesses, rigging photo lineups, and ignoring and hiding DNA and other evidence that demonstrated the players’ innocence. He said the City of Durham must be held responsible for Nifong’s misconduct, who was motivated in part by his desire to boost his flagging election campaign.
Suit Demands Accountabilty; Aims to Find the Full Truth The suit seeks underdetermined monetary damages, but Cooper said the suit seeks the full truth and accountability of those whose misconduct caused and prolonged the lacrosse team’s ordeal. “These young men want an acknowledgment that they were wronged by institutions and individuals that they trusted to treat them honestly. The pain and suffering they experienced cannot be erased; the misconduct of the University and town officials cannot be undone. But this suit will enable them to learn the full truth, to put the facts in plain view in a court of law, and to hold Duke’s leaders and town officials accountable for their wrongdoing.” Cooper said.
The players and their parents are represented by the law firm of Cooper & Kirk, PLLC, in Washington, D.C.
More information about this lawsuit, including a downloadable PDF of the complaint and other
materials about the case can be found at www.dukelawsuit.com.
SOURCE Cooper & Kirk, PLLC