Charges Dropped in Duke Lacrosse Case


After the three former Duke lacrosse players were exonerated of all charges today, the lawyer for Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, who first moved to prosecute, gave ABC News an exclusive reaction to the dismissal.

"He pushed the case as long as he did because at that point he believed in this case," David Freedman said, referring to Nifong. "Sometimes it takes time for false accusations to get resolved through the legal system, if that is what happened in this case. It doesn't mean the prosecutor was wrong to go forward."

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that all charges were dropped today at a press conference.

Reade Seligmann, David Evans and Collin Finnerty were indicted last year on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual assault tied to an alleged attack at a lacrosse team party March 13, 2006.

In the hours after the party, one of the two black dancers hired to perform for the players claimed she had been violently raped in a bathroom by white members of the lacrosse team.

A team of attorneys for the newly exonerated players held a press conference shortly after the attorney general announced that the case was officially over. The families of the three young men were on hand, as were members of the Duke lacrosse team and their supporters. All three players have maintained their innocence since the allegations emerged last year.

Evans, who has already graduated from Duke and vowed shortly after his indictment to disprove the accuser's "fantastic lies," was the first of the three to speak.

"It's been 395 days since this nightmare began and finally, today it's come to a closure," Evans said. "Nothing has changed. The facts don't change, and we have never wavered in our stories."

Evans spoke about the need to address problems within the justice system that were revealed during the state's unsuccessful case. He even cited the financial successes of his parents as one of the reasons the trio was able to escape a false prosecution. It was a sentiment echoed by Finnerty and Seligmann in their remarks.

"I hope these allegations don't come to define me," Evans said. "My family and I can sleep at night knowing we did everything we could do. … I can walk with my head held high."

The rape charges, brought forward by Nifong, were dropped in December. In January, Nifong recused himself amid charges of unethical conduct filed against him by the North Carolina Bar Association. The two other counts -- both felonies -- had been pending until Cooper's announcement.

While the three accused lacrosse players may find some closure with the charges dropped, Nifong's fate remains unclear. He could lose his license to practice law in North Carolina because of the ethics charges, and he could face civil charges from the accused players and their families. Cooper's public statements Wednesday are unlikely to help Nifong, a publicly elected official he described as a "rogue prosecutor" whom the state needed to stop.

After the state accepted control of the case, Nifong's attorney told ABC News that the prosecutor understood he would be "more a hindrance than a help" as the case proceeded. Still, Freedman also denied that Nifong dropped the case because he had lost faith in the merit of the charges. From the early days after the party, Nifong was outspoken in his confidence that the accused Duke players had committed a crime.

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