Sports Outside the Beltway

Duke Lacrosse Case Charges to Be Dropped

ABC News is reporting that, thirteen months into one of the most notorious criminal prosecutions in memory, all charges will be dropped against three players from the Duke Lacrosse team.

Duke Lacrosse Players Charges Dropped The three Duke lacrosse players originally charged with raping a dancer at a private party soon will not be charged, ABC News has learned. The state attorney general took over the case in January, after Durham County prosecutor Mike Nifong recused himself under pressure, claiming a conflict of interest because the North Carolina State Bar Association charged him with misconduct in the Duke case. (AP Photo )The office of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper will announce that he is dismissing all charges against three Duke Lacrosse players, ABC News has learned from sources close to the case. The three players, Reade Seligmann, David Evans and Collin Finnerty, were facing charges of first degree kidnapping and first degree forcible sexual offense. The charges stem from an off-campus party on the night of March 13, 2006.

In the hours after the party, one of two dancers hired to perform for the players claimed she had been violently raped in a bathroom by members of the lacrosse team. The players had also been indicted for first degree rape, but that charge was dismissed on Dec. 22, 2006.

Special prosecutors from the Attorney General’s office took over the case after Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong recused himself in January, citing charges of unethical conduct filed against him by the North Carolina Bar. Since then, Jim Coman and Mary Winstead have examined the case from scratch, interviewing key witnesses and working through reams of evidence.

The reasons that will be cited for the dismissal are not yet known, though the case has been riddled with criticism and colored by controversy since its early months. Defense attorneys released documents showing the accuser changed key details of her story in the weeks and months after the alleged assault.

Legal analysts and forensic experts have criticized what they call a critically flawed photo identification lineup — a lineup that led to the identification and indictment of Evans, Finnerty, Seligmann. No DNA evidence was found matching any lacrosse players with samples from the rape kit, while DNA from unidentified men was found on the accuser’s body and clothing.

The complete lack of evidence, prosecutorial misconduct, and lack of witness credibility might have has something to do with this. One hopes Nifong and the accusers wind up in prison.

It seems clear from this an a few other high profile cases involving athletes and other celebrities that the penalties for bringing fraudulent criminal charges are far, far too low. Were the penalties commensurate with those the falsely accused party would face, these incidents would drop precipitously.

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