Duke lacrosse play­ers sue school, city for dis­tress

Say dis­cred­ited rape case led to un­due dis­tress

The Covington News - - Sports - By Mike Baker

RALEIGH, N.C. — More than three dozen cur­rent and for­mer Duke lacrosse play­ers claim in a law­suit they suf­fered emo­tional dis­tress dur­ing the furor over the now-dis­cred­ited rape case against three of their team­mates.

At­tor­neys planned to file a fed­eral law­suit Thurs­day in North Carolina that ac­cuses Duke Univer­sity, the City of Durham and sev­eral school and po­lice of­fi­cials of fraud, abuse, and breach of duty for sup­port­ing the pros­e­cu­tion of the case.

Lead at­tor­ney Chuck Cooper said the private univer­sity turned its back on the play­ers to pro­tect the school’s im­age.

“This law­suit is born out of Duke and Durham’s sus­tained wrong­do­ing and cal­lous con­duct against the play­ers,” Coo- per said while an­nounc­ing the law­suit at a news con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

The law­suit filed on be­half of 38 unin­dicted play­ers and nine mem­bers of their fam­i­lies seeks un­spec­i­fied dam­ages for in­va­sion of pri­vacy, emo­tional dis­tress and other in­juries.

The play­ers ac­cuse Duke of ig­nor­ing, sup­press­ing and dis­cred­it­ing ev­i­dence that proved the play­ers in­no­cence, of idly stand­ing by while the play­ers suf­fered abuse and ha­rass­ment on cam­pus, and of im­pos­ing dis­ci­pline that im­plied the team was guilty. Duke sus­pended and then can­celed the highly ranked team’s sea­son in the wake of the rape al­le­ga­tion.

Pamela Bernard, Duke’s vice pres­i­dent and gen­eral coun­sel, said the fam­i­lies de­clined a univer­sity of­fer to cover the cost of any at­tor­neys’ fees or other out-of-pocket ex­penses.

Cooper said com­pen­sa­tion for ex­penses was in­ad­e­quate.

Durham in­terim City At­tor­ney Karen Sin­de­lar did not im­me­di­ately re­turn a phone call seek­ing com­ment Thurs­day.

For­mer Durham County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Mike Ni­fong won in­dict­ments against Dave Evans, Collin Fin­nerty and Reade Seligmann af­ter a wo­man ac­cused them of rap­ing her at a team party in March 2006. The case un­rav­eled amid the wo­man’s chang­ing story and lack of ev­i­dence.

The three play­ers were later de­clared in­no­cent and also have sued the for­mer pros­e­cu­tor, the City of Durham and the po­lice de­tec­tives who han­dled the case. They reached an undis­closed fi­nan­cial set­tle­ment with the univer­sity in June.

Ni­fong was dis­barred and spent a night in jail for his han­dling of the case. Cooper said he is not named in the law­suit be­cause of his pend­ing dec­la­ra­tion of bank­ruptcy. Ni­fong is claim­ing more than $180 mil­lion in li­a­bil­i­ties, al­most all tied to the prospect of los­ing two other law­suits stem­ming from the rape case.

Three other play­ers filed a law­suit last year, ac­cus­ing the school, Ni­fong and nu­mer­ous oth­ers of a con­spir­acy that in­flicted emo­tional dis­tress.

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