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District Attorney: Duke lacrosse case 'not going away'

4/11/2006

DURHAM, N.C. -- Durham County's chief prosecutor said Tuesday he will not abandon his investigation of allegations that an exotic dancer was sexually assaulted and beaten at a party thrown by members of Duke University's lacrosse team.

"A lot has been said in the press, particularly by some
attorneys yesterday, that this case should go away," District
Attorney Mike Nifong said at a community forum. "My
presence here means that this case is not going away."

On Monday, attorneys representing members of the lacrosse team
said DNA from 46 lacrosse players did not match evidence collected from the woman.

"No DNA from any young man tested was found anywhere on or
about this woman," defense attorney Wade Smith said Monday.

He said he hoped Nifong would drop the investigation.

No charges have been filed in the case, but Nifong has said he
believes a crime occurred at the March 13 party, which according to
court records was attended only by lacrosse players.

Nifong stopped short of confirming the defense assessment of the
DNA results, but said the case would not be hampered by a lack of
DNA evidence.

"It doesn't mean nothing happened," Nifong said at a public
forum at North Carolina Central University, where the 27-year-old
alleged victim is a student. "It just means nothing was left
behind."

No charges have been filed.

Nifong said prosecutors were awaiting a second set of DNA
results, but did not say how those differed from the tests reported
Monday. Nifong added that in 75 percent to 80 percent of sexual
assaults, there is no DNA evidence to analyze.

The district attorney said a rape case can be built on testimony
from the alleged victim and other witnesses. Nifong also said the
hospital exam of the woman has led him to believe a crime occurred
at the March 13 party.

According to court documents, a doctor and a specially trained
nurse found the alleged victim had "signs, symptoms and injuries
consistent with being raped and sexually assaulted.''

"My presence here means this case is not going away," Nifong
said to applause from an audience of about 700 people.

Shawn Cunningham, a student at N.C. Central, told Nifong and
Durham Mayor Bill Bell that he was angry with people who he said
were blaming the alleged victim.

"The press has disrespected this young lady," he said. "You
have minimalized [her] to a stripper and an exotic dancer. You
don't identify her as a mother. You don't identify her as a
student. You don't identify her as a woman."

The 27-year-old woman told police she and another woman were hired to dance at the party. The woman told police that three men at the party dragged her into a bathroom, choked her, raped her and sodomized her. The allegations led to days of protests on and off the Duke campus.

Nifong said that he has never engaged in racial favoritism and
that arresting suspects too quickly could harm the case.

"I have been criticized by both sides in this case," he said.
"There have been people who have said that I should have given up
this case a long time ago, and there are people who have said I
should have already indicted, moved against somebody with some
charges. The fact is that this case is proceeding the way a case
should proceed."

Nifong later told a questioner, who asserted the victim had
positively identified her three attackers, that her information was
wrong.

Nifong refused to take any questions from reporters after the
forum.

Bill Thomas, a defense attorney for one of the team captains,
urged the accuser to recant, saying he believes she made up the
allegations to avoid a charge of public drunkenness.

"It is my sincere hope that she comes forward and tells the
truth in this matter and allows these young men to go on with their
lives and for this community to heal," Thomas said.