Friday, April 21, 2006

Lawyer Says Accursed Has Alibi


North Carolina (CNN) -- Defense attorneys for two Duke University lacrosse players charged with raping a woman hired to dance at a team party say they have proof of their innocence.

Reade Seligmann, 20, and Collin Finnerty, 19, have been charged with first-degree sexual offense, first-degree forcible rape and first-degree kidnapping stemming from the alleged March 14 incident.

But their attorneys say they have evidence showing their clients had left the party by the time the attack is alleged to have happened.

The rest of the article can be read in the extended section.

The accuser, a 27-year-old student at nearby North Carolina Central University, told police she and another woman arrived at 610 North Buchanan Blvd. to dance at the party shortly before midnight on March 13.

"After a few minutes, the males watching them started to get excited and aggressive. The victim and her fellow dancer decided to leave because they were concerned for their safety," said a document attached to an application for a search warrant in the case.

The report said the women were outside when "one of the suspects" came out and apologized and asked them to go back inside the house to continue to dance.

A neighbor who reportedly witnessed what was going on next door said the woman returned inside around 12:30 a.m., according to a written statement to police and provided to CNN by a source with knowledge of the case.

The district attorney has said that the woman was raped afterward.

Police were called to the parking lot of a Kroger store not far from the party at 1:22 a.m., search warrant documents said, and found a woman in a car who told them she had been raped.

The woman said she was "sexually assaulted for an approximate 30-minute time period by the three males," according to a police report cited in the search warrant documents.

Defense attorneys said they have records showing that Seligmann called the On Time Taxi company at 12:14 a.m. from his cell phone that night. (A cabbie may be key to the defense)

On Time Taxi owner Moez Mostafa showed CNN his computer phone log, showing a call coming in at that time.

Mostafa said he picked up Seligmann and a friend at 610 North Buchanan Blvd. at 12:19 a.m. He said he could tell that Seligmann had been drinking, but that he didn't appear drunk.

"They seemed calm, like normal," Mostafa told CNN. "I didn't recognize anything different."

The cab driver said he then drove Seligmann to a Wachovia Bank to get money, and defense attorneys say an ATM receipt shows he withdrew cash at 12:24 a.m.

Mostafa said he next drove the lacrosse player to a restaurant, then back to his dorm.

Defense sources said a card reader at the door of the dorm shows Seligmann's student ID card was swiped to get inside at 12:41 a.m.

The defense says a timeline and witnesses will show Finnerty also was at a restaurant when the alleged attack took place.
Taxi returns to the alleged crime scene

Less than an hour after he says he picked up Seligmann and a friend, Mostafa says he got another call -- at around 1:07 a.m. March 14 -- to pick up people at the same North Buchanan address.

He said he saw about 20 people on the lawn of the home, "yelling, talking back" to each other, including one African-American woman who he said didn't appear to be injured.

Four men got into the taxi, Mostafa said, and they appeared to be drunk.

One of them said, "She's just a stripper," Mostafa quoted.

District Attorney Michael Nifong would not comment on the defense attorneys' claims. He has said he has solid evidence in the case, including a medical examination conducted by a nurse saying the young woman was a victim of sexual assault.

But DNA samples from the players failed to match material collected by investigators, defense lawyers for some players announced last week.

Nifong said on Tuesday that authorities are trying to determine the identity of a third suspect in the alleged rape.

The allegations have resulted in the cancellation of the lacrosse season, the resignation of the team's coach and public scrutiny of what Duke President Richard Brodhead called the "history of boorish behavior and underage drinking" among players.

In addition, the case has inflamed racial and economic divisions in Durham, North Carolina, which is home to both the accuser's historically black public university and the elite Duke.

posted by David at 12:25 AM :: Permalink ::

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