On April 11, 2007, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped all charges and declared the three players innocent. Cooper stated that the charged players – Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans – were victims of a "tragic rush to accuse." The initial prosecutor for the case, Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, who had been denounced as a "rogue prosecutor" by Cooper, withdrew from the case in January 2007 after the North Carolina State Bar filed ethics charges against him. That June, Nifong was disbarred for "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation," making Nifong the first prosecutor in North Carolina history to lose his law license based on actions in a case. Nifong was found guilty of criminal contempt and served one day in jail.
Cooper pointed to several inconsistencies in Mangum’s accounts of the evening as well as unimpeachable alibi evidence provided by Seligmann and Finnerty in the summary of findings report. The Durham Police Department has also come under fire for violating their own policies by allowing Nifong to act as the de facto head of the investigation, giving a suspect-only photo identification procedure to Mangum, pursuing with the case despite vast discrepancies in notes taken by Investigator Benjamin Himan and Sgt. Mark Gottlieb, and the release of a guilt presuming poster shortly after the allegations. The ex-players are seeking unspecified damages and new criminal justice reform laws in a federal civil-rights lawsuit against the city of Durham. The case has sparked varied responses from the media, faculty groups, students, the community, and others.
Duke University suspended the lacrosse team for two games on March 28, 2006. On April 5, 2006, Duke's lacrosse coach Mike Pressler was forced to resign and Duke President Richard Brodhead canceled the remainder of the 2006 season.
On March 13, 2006, a party was held at the residence of the captains of the Duke lacrosse team, a house that Duke University had recently purchased. The players were consuming alcohol at the party. They contacted Allure and requested two white strippers, but the women who arrived, Mangum and Roberts, were respectively black and half-Asian, half-black. One player asked if the dancers had any sex toys, and Roberts responded by asking if the player's penis was too small, according to the team captains. The player then took a broomstick and suggested that she use it for that purpose. This exchange of words abruptly stopped the performance, and both strippers went inside the home's bathroom. While the women were still in the bathroom, Seligmann and Finnerty left the house. The women came out, and Mangum roamed around the yard half-dressed and shouting.
Shortly before 1 a.m., Mangum and Roberts entered their vehicle. A verbal altercation took place between the women and the team members, after which Mangum and Roberts departed in Roberts' car. Evans, who had only heard some of the taunting because he was on the phone, became concerned that the police would be called and cite him for a noise violation, so he told the other players to leave.
Mangum was then involuntarily committed to the Durham Access Center, a mental-health and substance-abuse facility. It was there where she first claimed that she had been raped.
Mangum was transferred to Duke University Medical Center and received treatment for genital injuries, but it was unclear whether or not these injuries were consistent with rape. There were no abrasions, tears, or bleeding in the vaginal area, but investigators did find swelling in the vaginal area, along with tenderness in Mangum's breasts and lower-right quadrant. There was no blunt-force trauma, but Mangum had two nonbleeding scratches on her right knee and a nonbleeding scratch on her right heel, which had been there before she arrived at the party. There was diffuse swelling of the vagina, and investigators did not note any other injuries in the rest of the report. Mangum later claimed that she had performed using a vibrator for a couple in a hotel room shortly before the lacrosse-team party. This activity, or a yeast infection, might account for the swelling.
The e-mail was provided to Durham police by an unnamed Duke University employee with administrative access to the contents of student, staff, and faculty e-mail. The police claimed their source for the e-mail was an addressee, who confidentially shared the contents. The players suggest that the e-mail was conceived as humorous irony. Administrators say the email was an imitation of Patrick Bateman, the protagonist/antihero in the Bret Easton Ellis novel American Psycho. McFadyen was not indicted of any crime, but he was suspended from Duke, due to what the university described as safety concerns. However, on June 29, 2006, the university reinstated him citing the fact he had broken no University policy through his actions.
Timeline of March 13
Based on several published reports, The Chronicle offers readers a timeline for the night of March 13 and the early morning of March 14.
11:30 p.m. - Approximate time, according to a Durham police warrant, of the two exotic dancers' arrival at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd.
11:50 p.m. - Neighbor Jason Bissey told the Raleigh News and Observer that he saw two women walk to the back of the house, where they were greeted by a man.
12:00 a.m. - Bissey sees the two women enter the house.
12:02 a.m. - A time-stamped photo provided by defense attorneys shows women dancing in front of the lacrosse players.
12:03 a.m. - Another photo shows both dancers leaving the party.
12:03 a.m.-12:30 a.m. - There is a 27-minute gap where no photos were taken.
12:07, 12:14 a.m. - Phone bills indicate two outgoing calls are made from sophomore Reade Seligmann's cell phone.
Sometime before 12:24 a.m. - A taxi driver has said in a written statement that he picked up Seligmann and a friend a block and a half away from the party.
12:24 a.m. - Seligmann's ATM card is used at a Wachovia bank. The taxi driver confirmed that he drove Seligmann and his friend to a bank and fast food restaurant before taking them to West Campus.
12:25 a.m. - Seligmann calls his girlfriend, another Duke sophomore, on his cell phone.
12:20 a.m.-12:30 a.m. - Bissey told the Durham Herald-Sun he saw the women leave the house during this period, only to try to go back inside to retrieve a missing shoe.
12:30 a.m. - A time-stamped photo shows Mangum, wearing only one shoe, rifling through her purse and apparently smiling on the back porch of 610 N. Buchanan Blvd.
12:37 a.m. - A photo shows the woman lying on her side on the porch, apparently passed out.
12:41 a.m. - A photo shows the woman sitting in the passenger seat of a car with the door open.
12:45 a.m.-1:00 a.m. - Bissey said he saw the two dancers leave in a car sometime during this time period. He said he saw one man standing adjacent to the East Campus wall, shout "Thank your grandpa for my nice cotton shirt." He added that he saw the players leave the residence shortly thereafter.
12:46 a.m. - Seligmann's DukeCard is used to gain access to his Edens dormitory.
12:53 a.m. - The second dancer calls 911, saying white men who came out of 610 N. Buchanan yelled "nigger" at her from near the East Campus wall. Defense attorneys have questioned inconsistencies in the call - the caller first said she was driving, and later said she was walking when the slur was yelled.
12:55 a.m. - Durham Police Department officers arrive at a quiet 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. They saw there was evidence of a party, but nobody answered the door when the officers arrived.
1:22 a.m. - A female grocery clerk at a Kroger located on Hillsborough Road calls 911, saying "There's a lady in someone else's car, and she will not get out.... She's like, intoxicated, drunk or something."
1:30 a.m. - The police officer who came to respond to the Kroger call tells a dispatcher that Mangum does not need medical attention, adding, "She's not in distress. She's just passed-out drunk."
1:58 a.m. - An e-mail sent from the Duke account of sophomore lacrosse player Ryan McFadyen discusses hiring strippers and "killing the bitches."
The timeline was compiled by Jared Mueller and Tiffany Webber using information provided by ABC News, NBC 17 News, the Durham Herald-Sun, The Raleigh News & Observer and The New York Times.
On December 15, 2006, defense attorneys argued in a motion that the DNA report given to Nifong's office (and thus what the defense attorneys received) was incomplete, omitting information that showed DNA samples from several men on the woman and her underwear, but that none of the genetic material matched any of the players. The director of the DNA lab, Brian Meeham, acknowledged that the decision violated the lab's policies, but stated that his lab did not try to withhold information. Rather, Meehan claimed, he decided to withhold the exculpatory DNA evidence after discussing it with Mike Nifong in an attempt to not drag anyone else through the mud.
DNA from a broken false fingernail from Mangum, which was retrieved from the trash in the bathroom, showed some characteristics similar to David Evans' DNA, according to the private laboratory, but the match was not conclusive. Defense attorneys have suggested that any DNA present may have come from the tissue paper, cotton swabs, or other hygiene-related trash that had been in the garbage can along with the fingernail, since David Evans lived in the house. This was confirmed later by Attorney General Cooper's investigation: "... to the extent that Evans's DNA could not be excluded, the SBI experts confirmed that the DNA could easily have been transferred to the fingernails from other materials in the trash can."
Mike Nifong claimed that the lack of DNA is not unusual and that 75-80% of all sexual assault cases lack DNA evidence. However, the reason that most rape cases lack DNA is that the majority of rape victims do not immediately go to the hospital for the rape exam. Instead, they wash away most or all of the DNA evidence over the days, weeks, or months before they contact authorities, if they do. In this case, Mangum had a rape-kit exam administered only hours after the end of the party, and the absence of DNA is considered unlikely by many legal experts.
During Nifong's ethics trial on June 14, 2007, the complete DNA findings were revealed during Brad Bannon's testimony. It revealed, according to conservative estimates, that the lab had discovered at least two unidentified males' DNA in Mangum's pubic region; at least two unidentified males' DNA in her rectum; at least four to five unidentified males' DNA on her panties; and at least one identified male's DNA in her vagina.
On April 18, 2006, two members of the lacrosse team, Collin Finnerty (20) and Reade Seligmann (20), were arrested and indicted on charges of first degree forcible rape, first degree sexual offense and kidnapping. Collin Finnerty had previously been charged with assaulting a man in Washington, DC and shouting anti-gay epithets at him. It was never considered a hate crime. He pleaded guilty and agreed to community service in November 2005 as part of a diversion program. On January 10, 2007, the matter was cleared on Finnerty's record by a judge after monitoring Finnerty for several months and learning more about his character. Seligmann reportedly told teammates that he was glad at being indicted, alluding to a solid alibi in the form of ATM records, photographs, cell phone records, an affidavit from a taxi driver, and a record of his DukeCard being swiped at his dorm.
On May 15, 2006, a third Duke lacrosse team player, former team captain and 2006 Duke graduate David Evans, was indicted on charges of first-degree forcible rape, sexual offense and kidnapping. Just before turning himself in at the Durham County Detention Center, he made a public statement declaring his innocence and his expectation of being cleared of the charges within weeks.
On June 8, 2006, court documents revealed that Roberts, in her initial statement, said she was with Mangum the entire evening except for a period of less than five minutes. Additionally, after hearing Mangum saying she was sexually assaulted, she was incredulous.
On December 22, 2006, District Attorney Mike Nifong dropped the rape charges against all three lacrosse players. The kidnapping and sexual offense charges were still pending against all three players.
On December 28, 2006, the North Carolina bar filed ethics charges against Nifong over his conduct in the case, accusing him of making public statements that were prejudicial to the administration of justice and of engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. The 17-page document accuses Nifong of violating four rules of professional conduct, listing more than 100 examples of statements he made to the media.
On January 12, 2007, Nifong sent a letter to North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper asking to be taken off the case, giving the responsibility of the case to the Attorney General's office. On January 13, 2007 Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that his office would take over the case.
On January 24, 2007, the North Carolina State Bar filed a second round of ethics charges against Nifong for a systematic abuse of prosecutorial discretion that was prejudicial to the administration of justice when he withheld DNA evidence to mislead the court.
On April 11, 2007, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced at a press conference that he had dismissed all charges against the three lacrosse players. He not only dismissed the charges but he took the unusual step of declaring the accused players innocent.
The Duke defense lawyers or media reports have said that:
In response to criticism, Wilson stated that he never had anybody question his integrity. Shortly after Nifong's disbarment, it was reported on June 25, 2007, that interim district attorney Jim Hardin Jr. fired Wilson from his post.
At least two photo lineups have been reported by the media. In the March identification process, Mangum selected at least five different individuals, one of whom was Reade Seligmann (whom she identified with 70% certainty). During the April identification process, Mangum identified at least 16 lacrosse players. She identified Seligmann and Finnerty with 100% certainty and Dave Evans with 90% certainty during the April identification procedure. In the disclosed report, there were only two individuals that she identified during both the March and April lineups - Brad Ross and Reade Seligmann. Ross (the only player she identified as attending the party with 100% certainty during both procedures) provided to police investigators indisputable evidence that he was with his girlfriend at North Carolina State University before, during, and after the party through cell phone records and a sworn affidavit from a witness. Another person she identified in April also provided police with evidence that he did not attend the party at all. In regards to Seligmann's identification, Mangum's confidence increased from 70% in March to 100% in April. Gary Wells, an Iowa State University professor and expert on police identification procedures replied that memory does not get better with time.
According to the transcript of the photo identification released on The Abrams Report, Mangum also stated that Dave Evans had a mustache on the night of the attack. Dave Evans' lawyer stated that his client never has had a mustache and that photos as well as eyewitness testimony would reveal that Dave Evans has never had a mustache.
Duke's student newspaper, The Chronicle, depicted other examples of violence and dishonesty from Sgt. Gottlieb. It published that one student threw a party at his rental home off-East Campus before the Rolling Stones concert in October 2005. The morning after the concert, at 3 A.M., Sgt. Gottlieb led a raid on the home with nine other officers while the students were half asleep. It reported that one student was dragged out of bed and then dragged down the stairs. It reported that all seven housemates were put in handcuffs, arrested, and taken into custody for violating a noise ordinance and open container of alcohol violations. Sgt. Gottlieb reportedly told one student who was a U.S. citizen of Serbian heritage, that he could be deported. Other stories include the throwing a 130 pound male against his car for an open container of alcohol violation, refusing the ID of a student since he was international, searching through a purse without a warrant, refusing to tell a student her rights, and accusations of perjury.
On August 31, 2007, Nifong was convicted of criminal contempt for knowingly making false statements during the criminal proceedings. Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III sentenced Nifong to a single day in jail.
The case continues to result with coverage in the media along with widespread reactions and responses across the nation as the case and its aftermaths continue to unfold.
Mike Pressler, the coach of the lacrosse team, received threatening e-mails and hate calls, had castigating signs placed on his property, and was the frequent victim of vandalism in the aftermath of the accusations. On April 5, 2006, he resigned shortly after the McFadyen e-mail became public. Through his lawyer, he stated that his resignation was not an admission of wrongdoing on his part. On the same day, Richard H. Brodhead, president of Duke University, suspended the remainder of the lacrosse season. Other Duke faculty members (sometimes referred to as the Group of 88) have also been targeted for their "Social Disaster" letter as well as indivual comments and reactions which continue to create a perception of prejudgment.
Lacrosse team members had their photographs posted prominently around Durham and on the Duke University campus with accompanying captions falsely stating that they are covering up for rapists and have information about the incident that they are not revealing.
On April 21, 2006, outspoken talk-radio host Tom Leykis disclosed Mangum's name during his nationally syndicated talk-radio program. Leykis has disclosed identities of accusers of sexual assault in the past. On May 15, 2006, MSNBC host Tucker Carlson disclosed Mangum's first name only on his show, Tucker. Court records presented by the defense reveal Mangum's name.
On April 11, 2007, several mainstream media sources revealed or used Mangum's name and/or picture after the attorney general dropped all the charges and declared the players innocent. These sources include: CBS, The News & Observer, WRAL, all The McClatchy Company's newspapers (which includes 24 newspapers across the country), Fox News, Charlotte Observer, New York Post, Comedy Central, and MSNBC.
The case drew national attention and highlighted racial tensions within the Durham area.
In January 2007, lacrosse team member Kyle Dowd filed a lawsuit against Duke University and visiting associate professor and member of the Group of 88, Kim Curtis, claiming that he and another teammate were given failing grades on their final paper as a form of retaliation after the scandal broke. The case has been settled with the terms undisclosed except that Dowd's grade was altered to a P.
Dowd's mother emailed another member of the 88, Houston Baker, who continued to accuse her son and the others of being, "hooligans, rapists," and called her "the mother of a farm animal.
The lacrosse team, reinstated for the 2007 season, reached the NCAA Finals as the #1 seed. The Blue Devils lost to the Johns Hopkins University Blue Jays in the championship, 12-11.
In May 2007, Duke requested that the NCAA restore a year's eligibility to the players on the 2006 men's team, much of whose season was canceled. The NCAA granted the team's request for another year of eligibility, which applies to the 33 members of the 2006 team who were underclassmen in 2006 and who remained at Duke in 2007. Four of the seniors are attending graduate school at Duke and playing for the team.
On June 7, 2007, it was announced that lacrosse coach Mike Pressler and Duke had reached an amicable and fair financial settlement. Pressler was later hired as coach by Division II (now Division I) Bryant University in Rhode Island. In October 2007, Pressler filed suit seeking to undo the settlement and hold a trial on his wrongful termination claim on the grounds that Duke spokesman John Burness had made disparaging comments about him.
On August 31, 2007, Nifong was convicted of criminal contempt for knowingly making false statements during the criminal proceedings. Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III sentenced Nifong to a single day in jail, which he subsequently served.
On September 29, 2007, Duke President Brodhead, speaking at a two-day conference at Duke Law School on the practice and ethics of trying cases in the media, apologized for "causing the families to feel abandoned when they most needed support.
Crystal Mangum graduated from North Carolina Central University in May 2008, with a degree in police psychology. . On August 22, 2008, a press release announced the planned publication in October 2008 of a memoir by Mangum titled "The Last Dance for Grace: The Crystal Mangum Story". The press release says the book "can't and doesn't deal with the complex legal aspects of the case" but nevertheless asserts that "the muddling of facts about Crystal’s life, along with North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper’s desire to settle the dispute over open file discovery, swallowed the case whole." Attorney Cheshire responded to the news by saying that if the book was truthful "I think it would be fabulous, and I don't think anybody would think badly about her in any way, shape or form," but that if the memoir did not acknowledge the falsity of her allegations against the players, that he would advise them to initiate civil action against her.
Durham declined the settlement offer and on October 5, 2007, Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann filed a federal lawsuit alleging a broad conspiracy to frame the players. Named in the suit were Nifong, the lab that handled the DNA work, the city of Durham, the city's former police chief, the deputy police chief, the two police detectives who handled the case and five other police department employees. The players are seeking unspecified damages, and also want to place the Durham Police Department under court supervision for 10 years, claiming the actions of the police department pose "a substantial risk of irreparable injury to other persons in the City of Durham." According to the suit, Nifong engineered the conspiracy to help him win support for his election bid. Nifong reportedly told his campaign manager that the case would provide "'millions of dollars' in free advertising.
On January 15, 2008, the city of Durham filed a motion to remove itself as a defendant, arguing that it has no responsibility for Nifong's actions. For instance, it claims that its hands were tied because of Nifong's decision to send the case to a grand jury—a decision that was made independently of any city officials. Any violations of the players' civil rights, the city contended, were solely because of Nifong's actions. Along the same lines, the city employees named in the suit filed separate motions to remove themselves as defendants. On the same day, Nifong filed for bankruptcy—a decision thought by many experts to be a tacit admission that he lacked the resources to defend himself. On May 27, 2008, Judge William L. Stocks lifted the stay from Nifong's Bankruptcy file and ruled that the plaintiffs lawsuit could go forward.
On February 21, 2008, the families of 38 of the lacrosse team's 47 members who were not accused filed a 225-page lawsuit against Duke University, the Duke University Hospital, the city of Durham, and various officials of each organization for multiple claims of harassment, deprivation of civil rights, breach of contract and other claims. The complaint sets out a detailed view of the events leading up to the case, the university's response, and the subsequent unraveling of the case; it alleges corruption and collusion between Duke, the hospital, and Nifong. It accuses the university of refusing to enforce its own anti-discrimination policies as to faculty and student harassment of the lacrosse players, and of violating federal law when it issued team key-card access data to the Police without a warrant, and subsequently attempted to cover up the disclosure. The allegations also include the university's instructions to the team members to not seek legal advice or contact their parents, to speak to a university-approved lawyer (who represented the university, not the team), and to waive their civil rights. Allegations against the hospital are directed at the examining nurse who allegedly fabricated statements concerning the initial medical examination, her supervisor who adopted those statements even though they were contrary to the examination, and the failure of the Hospital to supervise these employees. Allegations against the city and its police department are directed at the investigating officers and their attempts to fabricate a case and their attempt to hide DNA test results, along with failure to supervise these officers. The plaintiffs allege emotional suffering, loss of job opportunities and damages based on the various statutes. They seek undisclosed damages as well as attorneys fees.
A Duke University spokesperson responded that "[w]e have now seen the lawsuit and as we said before, if these plaintiffs have a complaint, it is with Mr. Nifong. Their legal strategy—attacking Duke—is misdirected and without merit. To help these families move on, Duke offered to cover the cost of any attorneys' fees or other out-of-pocket expenses, but they rejected this offer. We will vigorously defend the university against these claims." The city has not released an official response to the suit.