The investigation into allegations of rape by members of the Duke University men's lacrosse team will continue, despite the results of initial DNA tests that don't connect the players to an attack.
"My presence here means that this case is not going away," District Attorney Mike Nifong said today at an event at North Carolina Central University, the school attended by the woman who said she was raped at a Duke lacrosse team party.
The season has ended prematurely for the lacrosse team and allegations of rape continue to swirl around it, but on Monday attorneys for some of the players said that initial DNA tests didn't connect any member of the team to an alleged rape of a woman who says she was attacked by three players.
"No rape or sexual assault happened in that house, and this DNA report shows it loud and clear," defense attorney Joe Cheshire said. "I think that it is a false accusation that has been made against these boys for some reason. And that it has been used to hurt their lives forever and to tear this community apart."
"No DNA material from any young man was present on the body of this complaining woman," said defense attorney Wade Smith.
Tests were done on every player on the team, except the sole black member, after a 27-year-old black student at North Carolina Central said she was raped by three white lacrosse players, sparking race and class tensions in the college town where Duke is located, Durham, N.C.
Nifong said today he was not discouraged by the way the investigation was going.
"The fact is that this case is proceeding the way a case should proceed," he said in front of a crowd of about 700 people.
The entire Duke team has been hurt by the allegations, even though the woman said only three players attacked her, because investigators have been unable to determine which three allegedly were involved.
"There are 46 members of Duke University lacrosse team and only three of those people are alleged to have been involved in assault, so until we identify all three, some of these men are going to walk around in a cloud where they will be thought guilty because of association," he said.
Some students on the Duke campus are rethinking their initial reactions.
"I had judged them unfairly," a male student said. "Absolutely I'm very surprised."
"I obviously think there's some wrongdoing," a female student said. "I'm not sure what it was, but something happened."
ABC News senior legal correspondent Chris Cuomo said the developments did not necessarily exonerate the lacrosse players -- it depends on what other evidence the prosecutor has.
"It is often said in the forensic community: 'Absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence,'" Cuomo said. "It is still possible that she was raped and that the prosecutor has evidence such as pubic hair, internal injuries, etc."
Nifong has generally declined to comment on the case since late last week, but The News & Observer of Raleigh quoted him as saying Monday that the DNA tests did not mean the case would not go forward.
"I'm not saying it's over," the newspaper quoted him as saying. "If that's what they expect, they will be sadly disappointed."
He has said there is still strong incriminating evidence, such as four of the woman's fake fingernails that were found in the house. A nurse and doctors said they found physical evidence that a rape and sexual assault had occurred.
The defense has also said that it has photographs that show the victim was injured before going to the party, which Cuomo said did not speak to the internal injuries. It does indicate that the prosecutor's case may be harder to make, he said.
Results are pending on a second set of DNA test results.