Published January 12, 2007
RALEIGH, N.C. – The woman who once claimed that three members of the Duke University lacrosse team raped her has changed her story once again as to what happened during the alleged sexual assault, according to court papers filed Thursday by the defense.
The accuser told prosecutors in December that Reade Seligmann, one of the three players charged, did not commit any sex act on her during the alleged attack and changed her time frame for the alleged assault.
So the defense once again asked a judge to dismiss the case.
"The accuser's most recent recollection of events demonstrates clearly that she cannot accurately recall and describe her attackers and that any identification made by her is necessarily unreliable," the defense filing said.
Meanwhile, WTVD in Durham interviewed a former campaign insider to District Attorney Mike Nifong.
"I would like for him to recuse himself and to let another prosecutor come in and look at the case," said Jackie Brown, who helped Nifong win the primary election last year, then teamed up with Lewis Cheek to campaign against Nifong.
The three players, Seligmann, David Evans and Collin Finnerty, have called the accusations "fantastic lies" and have claimed they, along with all the other lacrosse players, are innocent. The woman claims she was attacked at an off-campus house party the night of March 13 in a bathroom. She and a second woman, Kim Roberts — both exotic dancers — were hired to perform at the party.
The new version of the events included in Thursday's filing came from a Dec. 21 interview of the woman by Linwood Wilson, chief investigator for Nifong, who has come under heavy fire for his handling of the case.
That was the first time anyone from the district attorney's office discussed the case with the woman since charges were filed against the players last April.
Rape charges were dropped against Seligmann, Evans and Finnerty last month after the woman said she was no longer sure she had been penetrated vaginally by a penis, a necessary element of rape charges in North Carolina. Sexual assault and kidnapping charges remain, however.
Among other changed in her account, the accuser now says the alleged assault happened earlier in the evening, a time frame preceding the documented alibi — based on ATM receipts and cell phone records — of Seligmann. The defense points out that Seligmann was on the cell phone with his girlfriend during the time the accuser now says the attack took place.
The accuser also said Seligmann only watched the alleged assault. While he was repeatedly urged to take part in it, she recalled, he said he could not participate because he was getting married.
Lawyers have said Seligmann, 20, has a girlfriend, but there has been no indication that he was engaged or married.
The News & Observer in North Carolina notes that:
"The woman now claims the attack ended at midnight, whereas in previous accounts, she said it ended shortly before she left in the car driven by Roberts. Roberts called 911 as she was driving away at 12:53 a.m., according to police records. Photos show the two women dancing between 12:00 and 12:04 a.m. in the living room of the house where the party took place.
"The woman now says she arrived at the party at 11:10 p.m. on March 13 and that the rape began at 11:40 p.m. but her cell-phone records show that she was on phone with her father and others up to one minute before the rape allegedly started. Records also show Seligmann received a call on his cell phone during that period, the defense said.
"The woman now says her alleged assailants used multiple names and that there were only two assailants. She previously claimed she was assaulted by three men named "Adam," "Brett" and "Matt." She has in the past given conflicting descriptions of the three men and contradictory accounts of how they assaulted her.
"Time-stamped photos and records of a 911 call made by the second dancer also indicate the women did not leave the party until shortly before 1 a.m., nearly an hour after the alleged attack ended under the new timeline. In an April written statement, the accuser said she and the second dancer left the party immediately after the alleged assault."
She is also recanting her April statement that Seligmann was the man who stood in front of her and made her commit a sex act. Now she says Evans was that person and that Seligmann didn't have a part in any assault.
The defense motion also points out that the woman also recants her April statement that the attacker who looked like Evans had mustache.
Thursday's motion added to a previous defense attack on the photo lineup in which the accuser identified the three players. The defense plans to argue at a Feb. 5 hearing that the lineup should be tossed out. Experts have said there appears to be little evidence outside of the accuser's testimony to support the charges, and without the photo lineup, they argue Nifong would probably have to drop the case.
The defense has repeatedly attacked the credibility of the accuser, citing the many different versions of the alleged attack she has provided to authorities.
On the issue of Nifong, Brown told WTVD that the Duke case had very little to do with last year's district attorney race.
"Some of his first words to me were that he really didn't want to do this meaning the campaign, but that he needed three years and some odd months for retirement," she said.
But Brown dismissed the notion Nifong used the case to get elected before the May primary, saying he wasn't even focused on the case but the media frenzy came, as did the November election and mounting public pressure.
"I think by the time November got here, if he had come out and changed his mind and apologized then he probably wouldn't have gotten re-elected," Brown stated.
Despite the increasing number of calls for Nifong to drop the case, Brown says that isn't likely to happen.
"He's like a bulldog with a bone and you're not going to take it away from him," she said.
The next scheduled hearing in the case is on Feb. 5.
Both Nifong and James P. Cooney III, an attorney for Seligmann, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday morning.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.