DURHAM, N.C. – The district attorney prosecuting three Duke lacrosse players accused of raping a woman at a team party said during a court hearing Friday that he and his assistants haven't interviewed the accuser about the facts of the case.
They have only spoken to the woman to monitor her well being, Mike Nifong said, and have left the investigation of the case to police.
"I've had conversations with (the accuser) about how she's doing. I've had conversations with (the accuser) about her seeing her kids," Nifong said. "I haven't talked with her about the facts of that night. ... We're not at that stage yet."
Nifong made the statement in response to a defense request for any statements the woman has made about the case.
"I understand the answer may not be the answer they want but it's the true answer. That's all I can give them," the prosecutor said after the hourlong hearing.
Defense lawyers said outside court that they found Nifong's statement surprising.
"One of the most interesting things to me of course is Mr. Nifong did admit that he in fact has basically never talked to this woman and has absolutely no idea what her story is, and yet he has chosen to continue to go forward with this case," defense lawyer Joseph Cheshire said.
Attorneys for indicted player Dave Evans wrote in a letter to Nifong earlier this month that they believed he had talked with the accuser based on a court motion in which Nifong stated the woman told him she had not taken the drug Ecstasy on the night of the March 13 team party for which she was hired to perform as a stripper.
In response to a claim by a lawyer for an unindicted player, Nifong said he called the accuser to ask her whether she had used the drug.
"She said, 'I've never taken Ecstasy,"' Nifong said. "That was the extent of the conversation because that's all I had to know."
Nifong said he met with the accuser and an investigator on April 11, but didn't discuss details of the case because the woman was "too traumatized." Nifong said the woman didn't make eye contact with him and often seemed on the verge of crying. Their discussion centered around how the case would develop, he said.
"She probably did not speak 15 words during the meeting," Nifong said.
Evans, 23, of Bethesda, Md., was charged in May with rape, kidnapping and sexual offense. A month earlier, a grand jury indicted players Reade Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J., and Collin Finnerty, 20, of Garden City, N.Y., on the same charges. The accuser, a student at nearby North Carolina Central University, told police she was raped in a bathroom by three men at the off-campus party.
The players' lawyers have strongly proclaimed their innocence.