Two new books ex­am­ine Duke lacrosse play­ers’ plight

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Kevin Vance

The vin­di­ca­tion of the Duke lacrosse play­ers has hit the na­tion’s book­stores, with two sum­mer reads doc­u­ment­ing the mis­car­riage of jus­tice: one by a for­mer Duke ath­lete, the other by the team’s for­mer coach.

Nader Bay­doun, a for­mer Blue Devils foot­ball player, and R. Stephanie Good teamed up to write “A Rush to In­jus­tice: How Power, Prej­u­dice, Racism, and Po­lit­i­cal Cor­rect­ness Over­shad­owed Truth and Jus­tice in the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case.”

Mr. Bay­doun said his pas­sion for Duke, as an alum­nus and ath­lete and as the fa­ther of an alum­nus, stirred his in­ter­est in the rape ac­cu­sa­tions against three lacrosse play­ers.

“I bleed blue,” he said. “Like ev­ery­one else, I was shocked when this story broke.”

The au­thors even­tu­ally re­versed their as­sump­tions, say­ing the po­lit­i­cally cor­rect me­dia, the lib­er­al­dom­i­nated school, and some of its fac­ulty and stu­dents un­fairly pre­judged the young men. Mr. Bay­doun said the treat­ment of Collin Fin­nerty, Reade W. Seligmann and David F. Evans opened his eyes to prob­lems at his alma mater. In that spirit, the book of­ten uses first-per­son nar­ra­tion.

“We wanted to tell the whole story. We wanted to do it fairly and truth­fully. We hope that this book will help to fully ex­on­er­ate th­ese in­no­cent young men and to ex­pose all of the wrong­do­ers who vic­tim­ized them,” said Mr. Bay­doun, now a tr ial lawyer in Nashville, Tenn.

He said Duke Pres­i­dent Richard Brod­head and board of trustees Chair­man Robert Steel “acted as if they were more con­cerned with the im­age of the school than the wel­fare of the stu­dents.”

Duke sus­pended Mr. Fin­nerty and Mr. Seligmann and can­celed the re­main­der of the ti­tle-con­tend­ing team’s sea­son shortly af­ter strip­per Crys­tal Gail Mangum made her ac­cu­sa­tions. By the time the in­dict­ments were re­turned, Mr. Evans had grad­u­ated.

The school also forced coach Mike Pressler to re­sign. Durham Mayor William V. Bell de­manded that Duke can­cel its lacrosse pro­gram out­right. The Duke stu­dent news­pa­per ran a full-page ad signed by 88 fac­ulty mem­bers call­ing the in­ci­dent a “so­cial dis­as­ter” and vil­i­fy­ing the team mem­bers as sym­bols of racism, sex­ism and class priv­i­lege. Weeks of demon­stra­tions on cam­pus picked up that theme.

“Much of it was driven by ex­treme po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness,” said Mr. Bay­doun. “We as in­di­vid­u­als need to make sure that we don’t judge peo­ple too harshly or too quickly. We need to be con­scious of our own prej­u­dices.” Mr. Bay­doun also thinks peo­ple should take se­ri­ously the no­tion of “in­no­cent un­til proven guilty.”

Mike Ni­fong, the Durham County, N.C., dis­trict at­tor­ney who pros­e­cuted the case, re­signed his job and was dis­barred last month by the North Carolina Bar Asso- cia­tion for ethics vi­o­la­tions, in­clud­ing “dis­hon­esty, fraud, de­ceit or mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion” in pub­lic com­ments about the case.

In drop­ping the charges and pro­vid­ing a rare dec­la­ra­tion of in­no­cence to the three play­ers in April, state At­tor­ney Gen­eral Roy Cooper re­ferred to Mr. Ni­fong as a “rogue pros­e­cu­tor” who pushed his case for­ward “unchecked” and said spe­cial prose­cu­tors had de­ter­mined af­ter a three-month in­ves­ti­ga­tion that the three young men were the vic­tims of a “tragic rush to ac­cuse” by an over­reach­ing dis­trict at­tor­ney.

Ms. Good, a best-sell­ing au­thor, said she was shocked that Mr. Ni­fong did not ques­tion Miss Mangum’s story, which changed re­peat­edly, and that he con­cealed ex­cul­pa­tory ev­i­dence from de­fense at­tor­neys.

“We worked on the book be­fore we knew what was go­ing to hap­pen in the case, and thank­fully ev­ery­thing we wrote came to pass. We ex­pressed the opin­ion there would be crim­i­nal charges [against Mr. Ni­fong], and I cer­tainly hope that comes to pass, be­cause I think he de­serves it.”

An­other book about the case, re­leased last month, was co-au­thored by Mr. Pressler and Don Yae­gar, who worked 10 years as an in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist for Sports Il­lus­trated.

“It’s Not About the Truth: The Un­told Story of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case and the Lives It Shat­tered” ful­fills a prom­ise that Mr. Pressler, now the lacrosse coach at Bryant Univer­sity, made to his play­ers be­fore leav­ing Duke that he would tell their story and doc­u­ment their in­no­cence for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

Mr. Pressler con­demned the wide­spread rush to judg­ment in the early days of the scan­dal.

“We should wait and err on the side of cau­tion be­fore we start paint­ing peo­ple with the same brush,” he said.

Last fall, Si­mon & Schus­ter hired Mr. Yae­gar to work on a book about the Duke lacrosse case. In Jan­uary, he met Mr. Pressler and dis­cov­ered that the coach kept a diary through­out the or­deal and had ev­ery in­ten­tion of writ­ing his own book. The two men com­bined their ef­forts on the project.

Mr. Yae­gar in­ter­viewed nearly ev­ery lacrosse player, most of the at­tor­neys, co-work­ers of the ac­cuser, neigh­bors, and Duke stu­dents and ad­min­is­tra­tors to gather in­for­ma­tion for the book. He was sur­prised by “how com­pletely empty the file was of any ev­i­dence of wrong­do­ing from the very be­gin­ning.”

Mr. Yae­gar said he has no­ticed a change in the ways univer­si­ties and col­lege ath­letic teams han­dle sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions, as well as new pre­cau­tions that peo­ple are tak­ing.

“An aw­ful lot of stu­dents and col­lege ath­letes have learned that a stupid de­ci­sion can cost you the rest of your life,” he said.

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