Friday, December 22, 2006

Rape Charges Dropped In Duke Case

This has to have been a real bad month for Mike Nifong. First came word that he withheld key DNA evidence showing that the three charged individuals did not have relations with the accuser. Now we learn that he's dropped the rape charges against Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, though they still remain charged on kidnapping and sexual offense charges.

Prosecutors dropped rape charges Friday against three Duke University lacrosse players accused of attacking a stripper at a team party, but the three still face kidnapping and sexual offense charges, a defense attorney said.

Joseph Cheshire and attorneys for the other players have said for months the woman told several different versions of the alleged assault.

Cheshire said Friday that the accuser now says she does not know if she was penetrated, which he said led District Attorney Mike Nifong to dismiss the rape charges.

Nifong did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The accuser, a 28-year-old student at North Carolina Central University, has said three men raped her in a bathroom at a March 13 team party where she was hired to perform as a stripper.

The players — Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann — all say they are innocent. Their attorneys have consistently said no sex occurred at the party and have cited a lack of DNA evidence in the case as proof of their clients' innocence.

"It's highly coincidental," Cheshire said, that the charges are being dropped a week after the director of a private DNA testing lab acknowledged that he initially, with Nifong's knowledge, withheld from the defense test results showing none of the players' DNA was found on or in the accuser's body.
After the revelations that prosecutor Mike Nifong and the lab that ran the DNA tests in the Duke rape case withheld evidence, it must have become all too clear to even Nifong that there was little to support the rape charges against the three. The question remains why Nifong thinks that there is evidence to support the rest of the accuser's story given that the accuser has provided multiple versions of what transpired that evening. I think he's setting up to walk back from the prosecution altogether because the reliability of the accuser's testimony is suspect.

Nifong thinks that there is sufficient evidence for a kidnapping charge? I can understand false imprisonment, but unless North Carolina law has some unusual provisions, I don't see how he could maintain the kidnapping charges.

Others blogging: Stop the ACLU, Bullwinkle Blog, Michelle Malkin, Allah at Hot Air, Outside the Beltway, Sister Toldjah, LaShawn Barber, Powerline, and TalkLeft.

Lots of reactions coming in on this story: Redstate, Instapundit, Bill's Bites, Pirate's Cove, JammieWearingFool,

Is that Legal? thinks that Nifong should remove himself from the case. Mary Katherine Ham says it's about damned time.

Don Surber wonders why it took eight months for this to happen. If anything, the intervening period only highlighted the deficiencies in the case that were apparent from the outset when we learned that the accuser provided multiple stories to the prosecutors and related evidence didn't corroborate the accuser.

Anonymous emailer has sent in the link for the NC Gen. Stat. Art. 10, Sec. 14-39, which deals with kidnapping:
(a) Any person who shall unlawfully confine, restrain, or remove from one place to another, any other person 16 years of age or over without the consent of such person, or any other person under the age of 16 years without the consent of a parent or legal custodian of such person, shall be guilty of kidnapping if such confinement, restraint or removal is for the purpose of:

  1. Holding such other person for a ransom or as a hostage or using such other person as a shield; or
  2. Facilitating the commission of any felony or facilitating flight of any person following the commission of a felony; or
  3. Doing serious bodily harm to or terrorizing the person so confined, restrained or removed or any other person; or
  4. Holding such other person in involuntary servitude in violation of G.S. 14‑43.2.
(b) There shall be two degrees of kidnapping as defined by subsection (a). If the person kidnapped either was not released by the defendant in a safe place or had been seriously injured or sexually assaulted, the offense is kidnapping in the first degree and is punishable as a Class C felony. If the person kidnapped was released in a safe place by the defendant and had not been seriously injured or sexually assaulted, the offense is kidnapping in the second degree and is punishable as a Class E felony.
According to the statute, it would appear that if the accused were held in the building where the party occurred against her will and serious bodily harm occurred, a kidnapping charge would be appropriate. Nifong claims that a sexual assault occurred so it would kick the crime up to a Class C felony. The problem for Nifong is whether any of this occurred.

Duke President Richard Brodhead calls for Nifong to step down from the case? And Nifong is begging for the media to back off? The sharks in the water are smelling blood - his blood. They're not going to back off.

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