Duke Lacrosse Indictments Expected

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Apr 17, 2006 8:44 AM

UPDATE 4:11 p.m.: ABC reports that "the judge told lawyers for the potential defendants in a private meeting that if indictments were brought against their clients, he would call the attorneys to inform them. They would not know the charges, however, until arrest warrants were issued. And this:

Separately, ABC News has obtained a tape in which a security guard — who may have been the first person to see the alleged victim of a Duke lacrosse gang rape after the alleged attack — says there were no signs or mention of rape or sexual assault.

ABC News has obtained an audio recording of what is purported to be a private investigator interviewing a security guard at a Kroger grocery store. It was this security guard whose call to 911 brought police to the Kroger parking lot, where they found the woman who claims she was raped by lacrosse team members.

The guard was on duty at the store on the night of March 13, when the two women pulled into the store's parking lot in a dark sedan. The alleged victim, who says three men held her down in a bathroom and kicked, strangled and raped her, was in the passenger seat.

On the tape, which was recorded April 3, three weeks after the lacrosse party, the guard can be heard saying, "There ain't no way she was raped — ain't no way, no way that happened."

UPDATE 3:30 p.m.: No indictments in Duke lacrosse case today:

A Durham grand jury issued a list of indictments this afternoon that did not include members of the Duke University lacrosse team. District Attorney Mike Nifong had been widely anticipated to seek charges today from the grand jury after an escort service dancer told police more than a month ago that she was sexually assaulted by three men at a lacrosse team party.

It was unclear whether any indictments were issued under seal -- a rare move -- or whether the case was among 24 carried over to a grand jury session two weeks from today.

Nifong refused to answer questions, as did Superior Court Judge Ronald Stephens, who oversees the grand jury.

The case has played out in a clamorous court of public opinion with issues of race, class and sexual violence driving deliberations.

The grand jury in Durham is hearing the Duke lacrosse rape case right about now. The D.A. is reportedly seeking indictments of two players.

Today is a D-day of sorts for Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong -- the day defense lawyers say he might seek indictments against two Duke University lacrosse players for allegedly raping an exotic dancer at a North Buchanan Boulevard house party last month.

Several elements come into play.

There won't be another grand jury session for two weeks.

Nifong, meanwhile, is under fire from some segments of the community who think he has moved too slowly in the case and is coddling the white Duke students while not protecting the presumably less affluent dancer, who is black and attends N.C. Central University.

But other people have criticized Nifong for rushing to judgment without enough evidence, in the process running roughshod over the reputations of the players and Duke.

If the players are indicted today, they will be arrested and required to post bonds.

Police detectives did an impromptu interrogation of Duke lacrosse players in their dorms late last week:

In what the defense team believes was another effort to get ready for the grand jury, police detectives went to a Duke dorm Thursday night to question lacrosse players. According to the defense lawyers, the officers wanted to know who was and wasn't at the North Buchanan Boulevard party the night of March 13-14.

The effort to question the players, the lawyers say, proved authorities lack confidence in the dancer's visual identification of her alleged attackers, which reportedly was made from photographs.

This is the question I had about this investigation from the beginning. How was the D.A. so sure the entire time that it absolutely HAD to lacrosse players who assaulted the dancer?

At a college party, presumably "soaked" with alcohol, how can anyone know that the only guys in attendance were lacrosse players? How can anyone know that all of the lacrosse players were there? In my experience, no one at a college party knows exactly who's there at eny given time, so how could the D.A. know for sure a couple days after the party.

Also, in my experience, sports teams don't usually throw parties to which only their teammates are invited. That's not a party. That's practice.

My guess is the D.A. is unsure about the attendance at the party, and always was. Folks in town (I was in Durham this weekend) are saying Nifong decided who to indict last week and needed to double-check that they were actually at the party that night before embarrassing himself publicly. We'll see what comes down.

UPDATE: Grand jury to present findings at 2:30 p.m.