Published May 03, 2006
DURHAM, N.C. – Despite the allegations of a woman claiming she was raped by three members of the Duke University men's lacrosse last month, a player has come forward saying no such assault happened and that the school turned its back on the team after the accusations surfaced.
"It's tough, it's really tough," said the player, who spoke under anonymity to TV station WTVD in Durham. "You put yourself in that position and you know — it could of easily been any one of us."
The player was interviewed by WTVD in silhouette and gave 26 'no comments' during the interview. He is not one of the accused.
"The team has stayed strong, I mean from the get-go, we've only had each other to fall back on, because, you know we've been convicted in the media," the player said. "Our university turned its back on us, I mean with our parents and the alumni and our coaches."
A 27-year-old black woman claims she was raped by three white lacrosse players in the bathroom of an off-campus house during a party the night of March 13. The team's captain and others have claimed no such assault happened. Duke canceled the rest of the team's season and the players' coach resigned.
The player who gave the interview to WTVD said he is "100 percent sure" no rape occurred that night.
Last month, a grand jury indicted Duke sophomore lacrosse players Reade Seligmann of Essex Fells, N.J., and Collin Finnerty of Garden City, N.Y., on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual assault. Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, who won reelection in his office's Democratic primary Tuesday, hopes to charge a third person.
Defense attorneys have strongly proclaimed the players' innocence and claimed Nifong has been playing politics with the case to get himself reelected.
"There have been a few occasions so far where the defense attorneys and some of their motions have crossed the line into what I would consider either incorrect statements of the law or just absolute misstatements of the facts," Nifong told the FOX News.
In unofficial results, Nifong had 45 percent of the vote in Tuesday's race, with challenger Freda Black close behind with about 42 percent; Black refused to concede the race. There are no Republicans running in the general election, and Nifong only needed 40 percent plus one vote to avoid a primary runoff.
After nearly three decades as an assistant prosecutor, Nifong, 55, was appointed district attorney last year after Jim Hardin was named to a judgeship. During the early stages of the Duke rape investigation, Nifong initially talked openly about his investigation, at one point labeling some players "hooligans" and boldly predicting DNA test results would identify the guilty.
But DNA tests failed to find a match between the accuser and any player tested, according to defense attorneys. Lawyers are still awaiting another round of DNA results.
"I wish he hadn't said the DNA was going to exclude innocent parties," the lacrosse player told WTVD. "Because in our minds, we thought this was all going to come back negative and this is going to be over. So from our perspective, we thought this was going to be over, and from the community's perspective, they thought they were going to get three guilty parties. And neither came back."
John Bourlon, an attorney in Durham, said the player's statements may not help the indicted students' case that much, particularly because the player didn't want his face or name used.
"It's not going to do much to help the defense or for that member, for the lacrosse players," Bourlon told FOX News. "I think it's an attempt to humanize the lacrosse players in the minds of the community, which is why he made a 'no comment' remark 26 times to our local news."
Bourlon said the Duke players should be cooperating with local law enforcement, instead of speaking anonymously to the media about the case. "And they can make that statement without putting themselves in harm's way," he added.
The early Nifong comments about the case drew fire from Black, 45, a former assistant prosecutor in Durham, and Keith Bishop, 43, a lawyer in private practice. Some voters also expressed concern about Nifong's outspoken handling of the case, even though he changed course in early April and generally stopped answering questions.
Other voters said it was unfair to judge the veteran prosecutor on just one case, even if it has drawn intense media scrutiny to Durham and Duke University, by far the largest employer in the county.
There is a slight chance Nifong will face a challenger in November.
The accuser, who attends a nearby college, has not spoken publicly but her family members have given differing reports about whether she wants to testify in the case.
FOX News' Marianne Silber and The Associated Press contributed to this report.