This week, one of the 88 wrote a column for the Raleigh News and Observer, in which she referred to the accuser as simply "a single mother who takes off her clothes for hire partly to pay for tuition at a distinguished, historically black college." She charged that the real "social disaster" is that "we do not have national health care or affordable child-care," and "a group of white athletes at a prominent university can get drunk and call out for a stripper the way they would a pizza."
Local columnist Ruth Sheehan wrote in March, before any charges had been filed, "We know you know. Whatever happened in the bathroom at the stripper party gone terribly, terribly bad, you know who was involved. Every one of you does."
In a back-off column published this week, Sheehan wrote, "like others, I was outraged. And I wrote about it. I make no apology for that. It is not my job to wait for cases to be resolved and then walk through the aftermath and shoot the dead."
I'm sure the Duke lacrosse players are comforted by that.
The Durham activists who banged pots and pans and hung wanted posters of the Duke lacrosse team have put up their own "wall of silence," refusing to talk to press as Nifong's case has fallen apart and their sympathetic victim has become a liar.
Mike Nifong himself, who publicly condemned the team in what may amount to an ethics violation, and may have withheld exculpatory evidence, now wants to be part of the "healing process."
And the accuser will likely get tuition money from Jesse Jackson, who promised it to her whether or not her story proved true.
In Durham, it seems, it's possible to learn exactly nothing in 10 months -- that's a trick a lot of people pick up in college towns, but it's not encouraging in this case.
Want to know the real "social disaster" at Duke? It's not that the "larger truths" this non-crime revealed trumped the presumption of innocence. It's not that a bunch of ostensibly intelligent, socially conscious grown-ups let their liberal guilt-fest overtake the facts of a case, convicting 46 innocent young men in the court of public opinion as a ticket to the hippest candlelight vigil of the decade.
It's that, even now, they're not ashamed of it. And, until they are, I'm afraid Durham, Duke, future athletes, future rape victims, the local justice system and race relations are all -- what's the word? -- "Nifonged."
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