Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong said Friday that the stripper accusing three Duke University lacrosse players of raping her is in fact pregnant, but that she become pregnant at least two weeks after the party where she says she was raped.
Nifong, who said the baby is not due until the first week of February, bluntly contradicted family members of the accuser who earlier said she had already given birth. The judge in the case on Friday approved a paternity test for the baby when it is born.
Meanwhile, the head of a private DNA laboratory said under oath during court proceedings in Durham, N.C., Friday that he and Nifong agreed not to report DNA results favorable to the Duke players charged with rape, reported the News & Observer.
Defense lawyers also are asking the judge to bar the accuser from identifying her alleged attackers in court, a move that could force the prosecution to drop charges, experts say. Attorneys argue that the way the Durham police conducted the lineup was too suggestive and that the accuser misidentified her alleged attackers several times.
The accuser claims that three white males on the lacrosse team raped her in the bathroom of an off-campus house during a March 13 party for which she was hired to perform.
The three Duke players being charged with rape — Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans — were at the Durham County Courthouse Friday, where early testimony focused on a defense request for more information about DNA testing conducted for the prosecution. Defense lawyers also asked that the trial, which probably will not begin until spring, be moved outside of Durham County because publicity about the case may have biased potential jurors.
About a half-dozen Duke lacrosse players showed up at the courthouse in support. Inside the courtroom, the defendants sat facing the prosecution.
The judge set a Feb. 5 hearing on that request and the bid to move the trial.
During a break, Nifong would not comment about the pregnancy and declined to answer questions about potential paternity testing.
Brian Meehan, director of DNA Security of Burlington, said during that testimony that his lab found DNA from unidentified men in the underwear, pubic hair and rectum of the woman who said she was gang-raped at a lacrosse party in March, the News & Observer reported. Meehan said the DNA did not come from Seligmann, Finnerty or Evans.
Meehan gave no clear answer why he didn't include the favorable evidence in his May 12 report, almost a month after Seligmann and Finnerty had been indicted. He cited concerns about the privacy of the lacrosse players, his discussions at several meetings with Nifong, and the fact that he didn’t know whose DNA it was.
Meehan admitted that his report violated his laboratory’s standards by not reporting results of all tests.
Defense lawyers said Nifong had the report last April but buried it in thousands of documents turned over to the defense in October.
"In other words, they would not report exculpatory evidence that showed the accuser, in the place in the panties, and the area around her vagina and rectum, were loaded with DNA of other males ... we are extremely troubled by that," Evans' attorney Joseph Cheshire told reporters after the hearing Friday.
"Those things are clearly exculpatory ... it begs some very serious questions," he added.
At the beginning of Fridays hearing, the News & Observer reported, Nifong said he had only first heard about the DNA Security test omission when he was served with the defense motion on Wednesday. But after court, Nifong clarified to say that he did know about the DNA results.
"And we were trying to, just as Dr. Meehan said, trying to avoid dragging any names through the mud but at the same time his report made it clear that all the information was available if they wanted it and they have every word of it,” Nifong said.
The fact that the DNA news has finally come to light, the defense said, means the prosecutor's case is crumbling.
"We are very glad that the truth on this issue has come out and that people can see it for what it really is. We think that was accomplished today," Cheshire said. "I can tell you that when they [indicted players] walked in that courtroom this morning and all their teammates were there and mothers and father that know them were there ... the joy that came to their heart and our heart is palpable."
On the lineup issue, defense attorneys argued in court papers filed Thursday that the accuser misidentified her alleged attackers in photos, and that she was "an incoherent mass of contradiction and error."
The motion would bar prosecutors from using the photo lineup at their clients' trial and prevent the accuser from identifying the players from the witness stand. It argued the lineup was "unnecessarily suggestive" because the accuser was shown only photos of lacrosse players.
But Nelda Luce Blair, a former Texas prosecutor, said that lineup made sense because the accuser insisted her attackers were on the team.
As for the lack of DNA evidence linking the players to the accuser, Blair said even though the accuser said her attackers didn't wear condoms and no lacrosse player DNA was found on her, that doesn't mean the Duke men are off the hook.
"It does not exonerate them ... there is other evidence and part of it is her testimony," Blair said.
Defense attorney Joe Tacopina said if the lineup survives, the defense needs to point out to the jury all of the discrepancies in the accuser's story.
"Her story has changed so many times — to the nurses, the police officers, the doctors ... she picked two people in her lineup who were not even at the party," Tacopina added.
The accuser identified four players as her alleged assailants on April 4 after viewing PowerPoint pictures of 46 players on April 4. But in March, she looked at 36 pictures of lacrosse players and didn't identify any of them. She said later in March that she was 70 percent sure Seligmann was at the party but couldn't remember. On March 21, she twice looked at photos of team captain Evans and didn't recognize him. Before these lineups, the accuser made contradictory statements and other misidentifications.
Based in part on those identifications, Seligmann, 20 of Essex Falls, N.J., Finnerty, 20 of Garden City, N.Y., and Evans, 23 of Bethesda, Md., were indicted on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual offense. All three players insist they are innocent.
Several family members told FOX News' Greta Van Susteren that the accuser had already had the baby. Van Susteren earlier had interviewed the accuser's cousin, Jakkie, who said she was aware of the pregnancy but not the delivery at the time of the interview.
Jakkie told FOX News the accuser was due for birth nine months after the party where the accuser alleged she was raped.
Defense lawyers have dismissed the possibility of any of their clients being the father.
"It was impossible that any of those men fathered that child because none of them touched her," Cheshire said Friday, adding that the woman was given a pregnancy test the morning of the alleged attack, which was negative. She was also given the morning-after pill.
"I think this is a false accusation and I think this case ought to go away," Cheshire added.
Cheshire said Friday the defense has known for some time about the pregnancy.
UNC Hospital released a statement Friday saying: "The patient is here for care related to her pregnancy and has not given birth ... The patient says it is her hope and expectation that her privacy will be respected."
There had been no prior indication the woman, a 28-year-old college student who already has children, was pregnant.
"If it's [accuser's baby] none of the players', which they [defense] don't think it will be, it's just one more nail in the coffin,"defense attorney Tacopina said.
But, Tacopina added, even if the defense does prove that the baby doesn't belong to any of their clients, it doesn't mean none of the Duke players raped her.
"It's going to be hard because we're talking about a level of personal intrusion that is substantial and unless the defense can tie the results of that test into a very relevant issue to this case, it just might be hard for us to inquire about it," he added.
Durham attorney John Bourlon said the paternity issue is just a "red herring" and one more thing the defense can show that creates reasonable doubt about the accuser's credibility.
"I don't think the paternity test is anything other than a distraction," he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.