Duke Campus Police Overheard City Police Conversation on Rape Accuser

A campus police officer overheard city police discussing the credibility of the accuser in the Duke University rape case, including their judgment that the accuser "kept changing her story," officials said Wednesday.

Those remarks by police were cited in an independent university report released earlier this week as a reason school officials underestimated the seriousness of the woman's allegations and responded slowly.

The report did not say how school officials learned about the police comments. Duke Police Chief Robert Dean offered details Wednesday, explaining that the campus officer who overheard the conversation also did not ask Durham police any follow-up questions.

Aaron Graves, Duke's associate vice president for campus safety and security, said the campus officer did nothing wrong as he "documented what took place" in the hours after the rape was reported, including "what he felt or perceived he heard" from Durham police.

However, Graves said, "We clearly could have done a better job."

Both Durham's mayor and city manager have objected to the suggestion city officers did not take the accuser's complaint seriously. The woman, a 27-year-old student at a nearby university, told police she was raped at a March 13 party where she was hired to perform as a stripper.

"The Duke officer got a snapshot of the conversation. He didn't have the context of the conversation," City Manager Patrick Baker said. "Everything that the Durham Police Department has done has been consistent with taking the allegation of a sexual assault seriously."

A campus police report filed March 14 states that the accuser, who is black, initially said she was raped by 20 white men. It goes on to say she changed her story several times, and that Durham police stated that the charges "would not exceed misdemeanor simple assault."

"I think it's important to understand that this initial report was a preliminary report," Graves said. "This was not the conclusion of the entire investigation."

The issue of the accuser's credibility has been raised by defense attorneys, who have asked the court to hold a hearing on her reliability.

Also Wednesday, a judge rescheduled the next court appearance of one of the two players charged with rape, kidnapping and sexual assault.

Collin Finnerty was set to appear with co-defendant Reade Seligmann on May 18. Judge Ronald L. Stephens moved Finnerty's hearing to mid-June after defense attorneys said the prosecution would not be able to complete evidence discovery by next week.

Seligmann's attorney, Kirk Osborn, said his client was still scheduled to appear in court next week.