Published April 26, 2006
WASHINGTON – A Duke University lacrosse player charged with raping a stripper was ordered Tuesday to stand trial on July 10 in an unrelated assault case in Washington, D.C.
A D.C. Superior Court judge ruled that Collin Finnerty, 19, had violated the conditions of a diversion program he had entered after being charged in a November assault in Georgetown.
Finnerty and two friends, Daniel D'Agnes and Patrick Bonanno, were accused of punching Jeffrey O. Bloxgom after he told them to "stop calling him gay and other derogatory names," according to court documents. The three males were lacrosse players together at Chaminade High School in Mineola, N.Y.
The charges would have been dismissed under the terms of the diversion program once Finnerty completed 25 hours of community service, but the terms also required he not commit any criminal offenses.
Finnerty remains free pending a July 10 trial date in the Georgetown case. He could face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 if convicted of simple assault.
"We look forward to presenting the facts," attorney Steven J. McCool, who is representing Finnerty in the Georgetown case, said in a brief statement outside the courthouse. "This incident has been grossly mischaracterized."
Finnerty, along with fellow Duke sophomore Reade Seligmann of Essex Fells, N.J., were indicted last week for their role in an alleged rape and assault that is said to have occurred at an off-campus team party in March.
A black female stripper, 27, told police that three white men at the party raped her in the bathroom. Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong has said he is looking to charge a third person in the case.
Deferred misdemeanor charges against other Duke lacrosse players — such as urinating in public and disorderly conduct — may also be reinstated because of their participation in the March 13 party where the stripper says she was raped.
In a sign that the defense plans to attack the woman's credibility, Seligmann's attorney, Kirk Osborn, demanded Monday that prosecutors turn over the accuser's medical, legal and education records. The woman is a single mother and student at nearby North Carolina Central University.
"This request is based on the fact that the complaining witness has a history of criminal activity and behavior, which includes alcohol abuse, drug abuse and dishonesty, all conduct which indicate mental, emotional and/or physical problems, which affect her credibility as a witness," the defense said in court papers.
Nifong has declined to comment about the request.
The accuser's father has told FOX News that he's concerned his daughter is getting cold feet about testifying in the Duke rape case and has expressed that it may be too hard for her. Nifong can legally subpoena her and force her to take the stand, however.
During a press conference after Tuesday's hearing, McCool said it would be prejudicial to try the assault before the Duke case went forward. He wanted to push the trial date to August. The judge refused that request.
"I am not sure if I am persuaded by your argument," said Judge H. Bayly Jr.
But the judge's decision to set the status hearing for June 15 and the trial date for July 10 may indicate that he is giving some leeway to the defense. After setting the new trial dates, the judge offered the following conditions of release for the three co-defendants:
— Curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. everyday
— Not allowed to go to any location where alcohol is served, sold or consumed
— Cannot come within 50 feet of Bloxgom
— Each Friday they must report by telephone to pre-trial services to check in
— Cannot change residence without 72 hours of court appearance to the pre-trial services
The only words Finnerty said in court were "yes, sir" in response to the judge's asking if he understood the conditions of these orders.
Finnerty had one character witness in court aside from his father, a family priest. Two other character witnesses not in the courtroom were the president of Chaminade High School and businessman John Sikes.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.