Published April 21, 2006
DURHAM, N.C. – Fake fingernails and clothing are the focus of new leads in the Duke University lacrosse rape case as investigators try to pin down whether any members of the team raped or assaulted a stripper at a party last month.
Meanwhile, a cab driver who took a since-arrested lacrosse player home from a team party the same night a woman claims she was raped says his passenger was calm and jovial. But the driver, Moez Mostafa, said a second passenger he picked up later was talking about a stripper in a tone that made it "look to me like somebody get hurt."
Lacrosse players Reade Seligmann and fellow sophomore Collin Finnerty were indicted Monday on charges of first-degree rape, sexual offense and kidnapping. Each posted $400,000 bond Tuesday and was released.
Defense attorneys have said they have time-stamped photos from the party, bank records, cell phone calls and the taxi driver's statement to support claim that Seligmann is innocent of raping the woman on the night of March 13.
FOX News has onfirmed with two defense sources new information on fingernails found in off-campus house where the alleged rape took place.
Police had found four fake women's fingernails inside the bathroom where the accuser says the attack took place. The fingernails initially were thought to be a sign that a struggle did occur in that room.
But FOX New confirmed that the defense has photos from 12:04 a.m. March 14, showing the dancer already missing several of her fingernails, suggesting that her fingernails were missing before the time of the alleged attack.
Cell phone records show Seligmann called for a taxi at 12:14 a.m., and sworn testimony shows he left in the taxi at 12:19 a.m., according to defense sources. The bank records show he stopped at an ATM five minutes later, while information provided by Duke shows Seligmann's ID card was used to enter his dorm at 12:46 a.m.
Also, court documents released Thursday showed that when Durham police searched Finnerty's dorm room earlier this week, they were looking for clothing from Finnerty or his accuser, as well as property of the alleged victim, according to WRAL in Durham. An affidavit for the search warrant also mentions looking for digital recordings, still photos and e-mail correspondence. The warrant does not list what police seized during the searches, which were conducted just hours after Finnerty and Seligmann were arrested Tuesday.
Meanwhile, on Finnerty's end, that player's lawyer has rejected any sort of deal with prosecutors, proclaiming again his client's innocence.
"I don't think there is any chance in hell that there will be a guilty plea," attorney Bill Cotter said. "I can't tell you about (everybody), but my client's case is either going to be dismissed by the D.A. or go to trial."
Cotter said Finnerty, of Garden City, N.Y., has left Durham, although he wouldn't say where he went. Attorney Kirk Osborn, representing Seligmann, of Essex Fells, N.J., declined to say whether his client has been suspended.
Seligmann and his father spent much of Wednesday working from the law office of attorney Robert Ekstrand, who represents dozens of uncharged lacrosse players.
District Attorney Mike Nifong, who has not granted interviews in weeks after conducting more than 70 press conferences since the allegations surfaced, still hopes to link a third man to the alleged attack. He did not return phone calls regarding the dorm searches.A member of the defense team showed photos to the AP on Wednesday that show the accuser on the back porch of the off-campus house, with her clothing intact. She is smiling and looking through her purse.
The defense team member said the digital photos were taken at 12:30 a.m., citing an electronic time-stamp known as metadata. Such time-stamps are not visible on the photos. They are created, though, when digital photos are taken.
The accuser, a 27-year-old black student at a nearby college, told police she was attacked by three white men at a house where she and another woman were hired to dance at a lacrosse team party. According to defense attorneys, DNA tests conducted on all the players failed to connect any of the team members to the alleged rape.
"I would have to say she is definitely making it up," Cotter said.
Mostafa confirmed to some media outlets that he picked up Seligmann and another passenger at 12:19 a.m., took them to a bank and a drive-through hamburger stand, then dropped them off at a Duke dormitory.
"They were just joking and laughing inside my car and everything just fine," Mostafa said in an interview Thursday on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Mostafa told MSNBC that he returned to the house later to pick up another customer. He told FOX News that when he arrived at the house the second time, some players were on the front lawn and a light-skinned black woman was walking away from the house. She was arguing with the players, then Mostafa said the woman said, "I am going to call the police."
Four of the lacrosse players then got into the cab; Mostafa described them as agitated. He then heard one player say to another, "don't worry, she's just a stripper." He also said, "it look to me like somebody get hurt. But what kind of harm ... I have no idea."
Mostafa said he didn't realize his first customers had anything to do with the case until an attorney telephoned him a week or so ago. He told the Herald-Sun of Durham that he was initially reluctant to talk but changed his mind after a visit from Seligmann's father.
"I didn't want to get involved, but when his father came and said it was a really serious situation, I talked to them," he told the newspaper.
He said he was confident he remembered the episode correctly, not so much because the passengers paid $25 for an $18 cab ride but "because I wait for them a long time and they make my car smell, that's the only reason I have that in my mind."
He said he was sure he recognized Seligmann, though he didn't know the other passenger.
"Yeah, I know (Seligmann's) face that time and I recognize him and I still remember his face," Mostafa told MSNBC.
FOX News' Megyn Kendall and Marianne Silber and The Associated Press contributed to this report.