Two Lacrosse Players Charged in Rape Case

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Apr 18, 2006 7:03 AM

It's important to remember that, during this month-long national story, this is the first moment any lacrosse player has been even charged with a crime, though you wouldn't know it from the way people talk. The activists in my hometown have already taken the indictments as confirmation that they were perfectly warranted in smearing and convicting these guys in the court of public opinion before their trial, and they will undoubtedly continue to do it.

But the fact is they remain innocent until, as the saying goes. They shouldn't be presumed guilty because there are racial tensions in Durham; they are not guilty because they are white and privileged and their alleged victim was black; they are not guilty because there is a "culture of sexual entitlement" in collegiate athletics; they are not guilty because they had a stripper at their party; they are not guilty because making an example of them might "raise awareness" of all these important social issues and might, just might, prevent the rape of one woman.

No, they are guilty if, and only if, they raped this girl. We will have to wait and see, but the evidence to date at least allows for some skepticism.

From the Herald-Sun:

Duke lacrosse players Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann were arrested early Tuesday on charges of first degree rape, first degree sexual offense and kidnapping.

Bond for both was set at $400,000.

Finnerty and Seligmann arrived at the rear sally port of the Durham County Jail about 5 a.m. in a Sheriff's Office squad car. Handcuffed, they were taken inside to be booked and photographed.

Finnerty, 19, of Garden City, N.Y., is sophomore who plays attack for the lacrosse team. Seligmann, 20, of Essex Falls, N.J., is a sophomore midfielder. Both reportedly live in Edens Dormitory on the Duke campus.

A Durham County grand jury indicted them Monday. But the indictments were sealed -- meaning their names were not made public -- by Judge Ron Stephens pending the arrests.

This weekend, the second dancer at the house that night spoke out:

Until Sunday night, the only other witness, the second woman hired to dance at the party, had remained silent. In television interviews, she told her story.

The woman's attorney, Mark Simeon of Durham, declined Monday to make her available for an interview. She spoke on the MSNBC cable news network, which did not identify her and showed her in silhouette. Simeon confirmed that it was his client on MSNBC.

The woman told MSNBC that she did not witness a rape and does not know whether one occurred.

La Shawn is blogging this, and imagines the D.A.'s evidence is flimsy.

Prosecutor-turned-blogger Bulldog Pundit gives a really thorough legal analysis of the case:

The first thing is that I think arrested these defendants in the middle of the night rather than allowing them to turn themselves in was an arrogant and calculated move by the prosecutor. In cases where someone is under investigation (even in rape and murder cases) and you have no reason to believe there's a flight risk or that they will resist arrest, and when they are represented by counsel, a good prosecutor lets the defendant turn themselves in - unless of course you want the cameras there to record every step.

Additionally, from a strategic standpoint it just gives the defense attorneys another example of why the trial needs a change of venue - which is probably one of the first things defense attorneys will do if the case survives preliminary legal challenges.

Now to the legal part of the case. There are stories that the person who made the 911 call complaining of racial harassment outside the house was the second stripper at the party. The problem is that on the 911 call she identified herself as a "passer-by".

That's a huge, huge, hurdle for the prosecution to overcome. If this second stripper is the main witness against the defendants then the defense attorney's will have a field day with her because the first thing she did was lie. Further, if you've heard the 911 call you know that it's very unusual and odd to say the least. For one thing she changes between speaking calmly and matter-of-factly to crying at the drop of a hat. And the crying/upset part is when she talks about the racial epithets. Given the racially charged nature of the situation, that becomes a major factor both in terms of credibility, and moving the trial out of county.

If they don't get these boys outta Durham, they don't stand a chance of a fair trial.