Published April 13, 2006
DURHAM, N.C. – A lawyer for at least one of the Duke University men's lacrosse players accused of raping and beating a stripper said Wednesday that he expects one or more of the students to be indicted next week.
"It seems all along, they [district attorney's office] have been intent on charging one of these young men," attorney Durham Bill Thomas told FOX News, adding that he anticipates charges might be brought before a grand jury in the case on Monday.
"I certainly expect to see one or more of these young men charged with a crime," added Thomas, who will not reveal which player he represents.
Thomas pointed out that the district attorney's office has held over 70 press interviews.
"The pre-charge statements in this case have been most remarkable," he said.
The Duke community is fighting back against the accusations. School alumni and players' families have hired prominent Washington, D.C., attorney Bob Bennett to defend the school and players' reputation, which is under attack by the prosecutor and pundits.
Meanwhile, an interfaith prayer vigil with about 60 participants was held on the steps of Duke Chapel Wednesday in an effort to promote healing at the university and in the town of Durham amid the allegations.
Despite pleas by Duke team attorneys, District Attorney Mike Nifong vowed Tuesday that he would continue to investigate claims that an exotic dancer was gang raped and beaten by some players at a team party, despite a lack of DNA evidence proving anyone on the team participated in such an act.
"I have been criticized by both sides of this case," Nifong said at a community forum at North Carolina Central University on Tuesday, adding that he has been pressured to both drop the case and to slap someone with charges related to the alleged assault.
North Carolina Central University is a historically black school a few miles from Duke where the alleged victim is a student.
"I am trying to determine exactly what the evidence is that we have to proceed on and to assemble that evidence before anyone is charged," Nifong said. "I assure you by my presence here, this case is not over."
On Monday, attorneys representing members of the embattled lacrosse team said DNA from the 46 lacrosse players tested did not match evidence collected from the woman who says she was raped. They said they hoped Nifong, who is up for re-election, would drop the investigation. Some have insinuated that politics is part of the reason for Nifong's aggressive insistence on continuing with the case.
"There's people that feel it should be over, there are people who feel you should continue to prosecute, or at least levy charges," Duke student body President Jessie Longoria told FOX News on Wednesday. "I would hope that politics don't play a case in the allegations ... everyone wants the truth ... I would hope that outside influences don't affect the truth."
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. The woman said her attackers were white, and DNA samples were taken from every white member of the team.
Thomas has maintained that time-stamped photographs show the alleged victim was already injured and impaired by the time she got to the party.
"My conviction that a sexual assault actually took place is based on the examination that was done at Duke hospital," Nifong countered Wednesday.
According to court documents, a physician and specially trained nurse that found the alleged victim had "signs, symptoms and injuries consistent with being raped and sexually assaulted" during an exam conducted after the alleged attack.
Thomas noted that although those medical officials said the alleged victim's physical and mental state was "consistent with" that of a person who was recently assaulted, it doesn't necessarily mean it happened.
"I think you'll hear a lot more about that as this case proceeds," he said.
The woman told police she was pulled into a bathroom and assaulted after coming back into the lacrosse house. But Thomas said the woman locked herself in the bathroom, where police later found her purse, mobile phone and several artificial fingernails she claimed to have lost during a struggle with her attackers.
Thomas said one of the attorneys representing team members had interviewed the other dancer extensively, and she said the alleged victim never told her about a rape. Thomas noted that the alleged victim never mentioned anything to anyone about any rape or assault until she was put in a police car later that night.
"We know the first time any allegation of rape was made was when she was in the back of a patrol car," Thomas said. "We can certainly speculate why she made these allegations."
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.