EXCLUSIVE: Duke Lacrosse Player Speaks Out for First Time

May 3, 2006 — -- A Duke lacrosse player who is not one of the men accused of raping an exotic dancer at an off-campus party says that his school abandoned the team, that his former coach had been "forced out," and that he is 100 percent certain no rape occurred.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, the player -- who insisted on anonymity and whose face was shadowed during the interview -- told ABC North Carolina affiliate WTVD reporter Darla Miles on Monday that last month's indictment of two of his teammates was "probably the most emotional day of my life."

Duke student lacrosse players Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann have been charged with raping an exotic dancer hired to strip at a March 13 party. The alleged victim -- a mother and student at North Carolina Central University -- told police that she was brutally raped and robbed by three men in the bathroom of an off-campus home rented by team members.

Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, who won a primary election Tuesday night and is expected to run unchallenged in the general election, has indicated he hopes to indict a third player in the days ahead.

When asked whether he was 100 percent sure no rape had occurred the night of the party, the player said, "Yes, ma'am." It was the first on-camera interview since the alleged rape scandal had surfaced.

The player -- the first one to speak since the scandal broke -- gave 26 "no comments" during the interview. Citing the ongoing investigation, he declined to discuss the alleged victim, her dance partner, and many other issues related to the night of the alleged attack.

'We've Only Had Each Other'

The player said that his teammates had turned instinctively to each other to cope with the scandal.

"From the get-go, we've only had each other to fall back on. We've been convicted in the media," he said. "Our university has turned its back on us. … They didn't stand up for us, and we feel neglected and that our loyalty wasn't reciprocated."

The player choked up as he told Miles how his team was on its way to the national championship when the rape allegations surfaced. He insisted veteran coach Mike Pressler "didn't resign."

"He was forced out," the player said. "The notion that he quit or resigned is ridiculous."

"He is Duke lacrosse," the player said. "He was the coach for 16 years. Duke lacrosse was nothing before he got there. The alumni that he's produced and the friends that I have [are] because of him, the opportunity he gave me and everyone else. We're all devastated he took the fall for this."

A Duke University spokesman reached Monday night by ABC News' Law & Justice Unit declined to comment on the interview.

'It Was Almost Like She Went Eenie, Meenie, Miney'

The player said the days between Nifong's announcement of a rape investigation in March and the April 17 indictment of Seligmann and Finnerty were tense and dizzying.

"I think they're shocked and upset," he said. "And I think part of that is just because there were 47 of us, and no one knew who it was going to be. It was almost like [the alleged victim] went eenie, meenie, miney, [mo] off the roster."

Asked whether he was angry, the player said, "Extremely."

The player said his teammates were "anxious" about the possibility of a third indictment.

"I just pray [Nifong] doesn't go through with it. That he's not going to indict another innocent person," he said. "Because even if it's not me, it's going to be somebody else who I care about."

All Team Members Involved -- Emotionally

The player said he wasn't relieved that he wasn't accused in the case.

"People ask me, you know, 'Were you satisfied and happy that it wasn't you that was indicted, you know, when the two players were indicted?'" he said. "Not really. Because, you know, those are like family and it's still just as upsetting."

Team members have remained in regular contact as daily developments in the case have unfolded.

"We're all involved emotionally," he said."We're on the team. … I think a lot of us just want to know what's going on all the time. A lot of us, still, we call these guys every day to see how they're doing. We just try to stay involved as much as possible, with the whole situation."

Sticking Together

The player said that his team was tight-knit and that it was the "nature of team sports" to support one another in times of crisis.

"When you do go through those experiences, you do sweat, you do cry, you do bleed with 46 other guys," he said."That type of camaraderie and brotherhood develops, it's not a bad thing in my opinion that we're always together, [and] we're like any fraternity on campus."

On Monday, a committee chosen by Duke University to evaluate the lacrosse program and its relationship to the rest of the university recommended that the team return to the playing field next season, under stricter supervision.

"I think everyone's coming back," the player said.

Asked whether there was one thing he and his teammates wanted the public to know, the player said, "Innocent until proven guilty."