DURHAM, N.C. – The woman who claims she was raped by three Duke University lacrosse players last month also filed a complaint in 1996 saying she was raped by three other men.
But a jury might never hear about those allegations, Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong said Friday.
Nifong said North Carolina's rape shield law lists "narrowly defined categories" under which evidence of an accuser's past sexual history is allowed as evidence. The court must hold a hearing to determine if the evidence meets those categories and to decide how it can be presented.
"In short, the jury that decides this case may or may not hear the 'evidence,"' Nifong said.
"The media are not bound by the same rules that govern our courts," he continued. "Their decisions on what to report and how they report it (can) have a substantial impact on the ability of our system to effectuate justice. That impact is often positive. Unfortunately, it can also be negative."
Authorities said that none of the men named in the August 1996 report were ever charged because the accuser failed to pursue the allegations. Creedmor Police reports indicate that the accuser said she was 14 when the incident allegedly occurred, which means she would have waited about three years to report the incident.
But a family member told FOX News that the accuser did report the previous rape and that she reported it right away when she was 16, not 14.
A phone number for the accuser has been disconnected. Her family members began speaking to the media after the previous allegations surfaced amid the investigation into whether in fact the 27-year-old black stripper was in fact raped by three white lacrosse players at an off-campus party. The accuser, a student at nearby North Carolina Central University in Durham, was hired to dance at the party.
The mother of the accuser told Essence magazine this week that the woman declined to pursue the 1996 complaint out of fear for her safety. FOX News then confirmed through a family member of the accuser the details of the Essence story.
The accuser’s father said Thursday night he remembered little about the previous incident except going with police to a home in Creedmor where he said his daughter was being held "against her will."
Asked Thursday if she was sexually assaulted, her father said, "I can't remember." In an interview with the Raleigh News and Observer posted Thursday night on the newspaper's Web site, he said the men his daughter accused in 1996 "didn't do anything to her."
But the accuser's cousin, Jackie, told FOX News that the 1996 allegations of a sexual assault were not fabricated. She said that case has nothing to do with the Duke one. She added that Essence Magazine "wined and dined" and misled the accuser's mother into revealing various information.
Attorneys for Duke sophomore Reade Seligmann, one of the two lacrosse players recently indicted for the more recent alleged rape, asked the court this week to order the state to turn over the accuser's medical, legal and education records, and hold a pretrial hearing to "determine if the complaining witness is even credible enough to provide reliable testimony."
The accuser’s cousin said defense lawyers are unfairly trying to destroy the alleged victim's credibility.
The existence of the previous rape report surprised defense attorneys.
"That's the very first I've heard of that," said Bill Cotter, the attorney for indicted lacrosse player Collin Finnerty, who, along with Seligmann, is charged with first-degree rape, kidnapping and sexual assault.
'These are Serious Allegations'
According to the Creedmoor police report in August 1996, when the woman was 18, she told officers she was raped and beaten by three men "for a continual time" in 1993, when she was 14. She told police she was attacked at an "unspecified location" on a street in Creedmoor, a town 15 miles northeast of Durham.
The report lists the names of the three men, but no other details.
Nifong's office contacted Creedmoor police Friday morning, seeking information about the incident report, said Mayor Darryl Moss. He and police Chief Ted Pollard said officials there are continuing to look for additional records, but have so far been unable to locate any other paperwork.
A family member of the accuser told FOX News that the alleged victim was picked up at school by two boys, one of whom was her boyfriend. They then took her to one of the boys' houses. The family member recalls her saying that only two of the three boys raped her, and that the third boy was questioned by police only because it was his house.
The family member said the woman was picked up at the house of the alleged attack and taken by family members to the police station, where she gave a full report.
The family member does not know why charges weren’t pursued, but recalls that the accuser's boyfriend's mother begged the accuser to drop the matter, saying her son was already in trouble with the law and she did not want him to go to jail.
The accuser's mother told Essence said her daughter went away to a hospital for about a week last summer, where she was treated for a "nervous breakdown." While the mother said she wasn't sure what brought on the breakdown, they did say that their daughter was upset about mounting bills.
A family member told FOX News that the woman was attending Durham Technical Community College at the time of her admission into the Raleigh mental health facility and was simply overwhelmed with stress. She was put on some sort of medication, which the family member said she no longer takes.
Durham police Officer Brian Bishop, who interviewed the accuser in 1996 while working on the Creedmoor force, said Thursday he had a vague recollection of the report but couldn't remember any details.
Attorney Joe Cheshire, who represents a player on the team who has not been charged, noted that authorities apparently decided not to prosecute the earlier case. Cheshire said he would like to know whether current prosecutors knew about the allegation or if the accuser told them about it.
"These are serious allegations, particularly for a person that age. In my mind, it would raise real issues about her credibility," he said.
Before Seligmann and Finnerty were indicted, attorneys for the players pointed to the accuser's criminal history when answering questions about their clients' legal troubles. The woman pleaded guilty to several misdemeanors in 2002.
FOX News’ Megyn Kendall and The Associated Press contributed to this report.