April 12, 2007 — -- For the three Duke lacrosse players once called "hooligans" by Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, Wednesday's dropping of all charges against them was both a legal and personal vindication.
"I hope these allegations don't come to define me," said former lacrosse player David Evans. "I hope that the way that I could be remembered is sticking up for my name, for my family and for my team against impossible odds. Impossible odds -- the entire country against us and we fought back for our names."
Evans and his fellow teammates, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty, fought back with the help of the four attorneys who represented them: Joe Cheshire, Jim Cooney, Bill Cotter and Wade Smith.
On "Good Morning America," the attorneys talked about what's next for the young men, Nifong and the woman who accused the players of rape.
Cheshire believes the prosecution went on for so long because Nifong had his own interests at heart.
"This woman made these allegations, I believe that Mr. Nifong took them and was running for re-election. He needed to win, he needed the black vote," Cheshire said. "He needed to divide the city for him to survive himself. And he took his own personal needs over what his oath was."
Cooney said that Nifong should be investigated by the state bar and by an independent agency who can determine if he engaged in criminal wrongdoing.
"I think we all need to make sure that we give Mr. Nifong the thing he didn't want to give our clients, which is a fair hearing before the state bar," Cooney said. "One thing we're all in agreement on is that an independent agency with criminal jurisdiction needs to do an investigation into this case. We need to determine whether there was in fact criminal wrongdoing on the part of law enforcement, and on the part of Mr. Nifong."
The attorneys were torn on what should happen to the woman who accused the Duke students of rape.
"The price she should pay is a tough issue for us, because people should not be permitted to make allegations like this and get away with them," Cotter said. "On the other hand, we really have not very much interest in having her prosecuted and having these young men come back and testify."
As for Evans, Seligmann and Finnerty, the attorneys were confident that they'd bounce back from the saga of the charges and go on with their lives. But Cheshire said it will take time for them -- and the public -- to forget this more than yearlong episode.
"People are going to have to forgive," he said. "I think it will be hard for these boys not to be scarred."