Duke DA: Insufficient Evidence for Rape Charge

Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong dropped charges of first-degree rape against former Duke lacrosse players Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans.

A motion filed today cited "insufficient evidence to warrant prosecution" as the reason behind the dismissal.

ABC News has learned that the prosecution only interviewed the alleged victim in the Duke University sexual offense case for the first time yesterday.

"It's great news," Kevin Finnerty, father of Collin, told ABC News today.

Nifong has not returned ABC News calls for comment. But when asked as he was exiting the Durham County Courthouse why the charges were dropped, he replied, "I think the documents speak for themselves."

In those documents, Nifong said the accuser "cannot at this time testify with certainty that a penis was the body part that penetrated her vagina."

Under North Carolina law, such penetration is a necessary fact that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for a rape conviction.

According to North Carolina statute 14-27.2., "a person is guilty of rape in the first degree if the person engages in vaginal intercourse."

Still, the dismissal of rape charges is only a partial victory for the indicted players and their defense team. Nifong is still proceeding with two other charges of kidnapping and first-degree sexual offense against the three indicted men.

"Those charges still carry significant active prison time, were these defendants to be convicted," Evans' defense attorney Joe Cheshire said in a press conference.

The remaining two charges are both felonies. Together, they carry a possible sentence ranging from 20 to slightly more than 24 years in prison, Cheshire said.

The accuser's assertion that she is uncertain she was raped differs from statements she made to police in April. At that time, the accuser said she was brutally raped and beaten by three men during a lacrosse team party at a house near the Duke University campus, claiming that she was "vaginally penetrated by a male sex organ," without a condom. The accuser and another woman were hired as exotic dancers and paid to strip at the party.

No DNA evidence found on the accuser's body or clothing matched samples taken from any lacrosse players, Brian Meehan of DNA Security said in a pretrial hearing last week. DNA Security, a private lab in Burlington, N.C., was contracted by Nifong to conduct testing of evidence for the case.

Another Hit to Accuser's Credibility?

Defense lawyers and supporters of the indicted players see the dismissal as the latest in a series of hits to the accuser's credibility.

"Almost the only consistent thing the accuser has said throughout the many varied statements she has made was that a penis was used in the assault she describes," defense attorney Cheshire said.

"Her story has now yet again changed," he said. "She now cannot remember the use of a penis in the vaginal rape that she describes and that was used to indict these young men."

"We have an accuser that is not credible," said KC Johnson, legal historian and author of a defense-friendly blog entitled "Durham-in-Wonderland."

"What this would say to any ethical prosecutor is that this is a case that should never have been filed and should immediately be dropped," Johnson added.

When asked for her reaction to the dismissal of rape charges, the accuser's mother was unfazed.

"I trust Mr. Nifong. I trust Mr. Nifong," she repeated. Her name is being withheld to protect the accuser's identity.

When asked if she was upset that charges based on her daughter's rape accusation were dropped, she simply replied, "No."

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