Duke Reinstates Embattled Lacrosse Players

"We appreciate the recent comments by Duke University president Brodhead, questioning the basis for the remaining charges against Reade and Mr. Nifong's conduct in ever bringing these charges. We are also glad Duke University has now made it clear that Reade is welcome to return to the University and look forward to the day that he can return to living a normal life and continuing his education as a full-time student.

"By now it should be plain to any person who has any objectivity that the charges against Reade are transparently false. Reade is absolutely innocent, and we will continue to fight this injustice."

In a statement echoed by supporters and defense attorneys, the Seligmanns said they "are not going to rest until Reade's good name has been cleared and those who have been responsible for this injustice have been held fully accountable."

It was unclear whether the pair would return to Duke University. Sources close to the families of the accused indicated that neither man would return to the North Carolina campus while Nifong was still in office.

Earlier this week, Nifong was sworn in to serve his first full term, which would last through 2010. He was appointed Durham district attorney last year when Jim Hardin, the former district attorney, was appointed to a judgeship. Nifong won a tight primary race in the spring, amid the growing investigation, and he went on to win the general election last fall.

Duke University officials have declined to comment specifically on the academic status of Finnerty and Seligmann, saying only that it is school policy to suspend students charged with felonies.

Last spring the three men were charged with rape, kidnapping and sexual offense after one of two women hired to do striptease dances at an off-campus lacrosse party claimed she had been brutally raped, sodomized and beaten in the bathroom of the house where the party took place.

Since those accusations, the woman's credibility has been challenged and legal communities -- both within Durham County and nationwide -- have sharply criticized Nifong's management of the ongoing case.

Earlier this week, Nifong said that he would not recuse himself from the Duke case at this point.

"If we get to the point where it appears that my presence in an investigation or anything like that is a hindrance, then we can deal with that at that time," Nifong said. "But I've been elected to do a job, and I intend to do that job.

"Durham has some healing to do. I intend to be part of that healing process. And I need to have something to do with how we move forward in light of the events ... that happened over the course of the last year."

Nifong declined to elaborate on what role he intended to play in the healing of the community.

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