Former Duke Lacrosse Coach Sues School

Friday, October 12, 2007

By AARON BEARD, Associated Press Writer



A former Duke University men's lacrosse coach has sued the university after resigning earlier this year under the pressure of allegations that three of his players raped a stripper, school officials said Friday.

Mike Pressler's lawsuit apparently stems from a financial settlement the school reached earlier this year with Pressler, although school officials did not give details.

"Mr. Pressler, aided by his attorney, reached a fair and final financial agreement with Duke University in the spring of 2007," Pamela Bernard, Duke's vice president and general counsel, said in a statement. "We are disappointed that he is now trying to undo that agreement with an unfounded claim against Duke.

"We will address the matter through the legal process and insist on honoring our existing agreement."

The Herald-Sun of Durham reported Friday night on its Web site that Pressler's lawsuit alleges the university broke the terms of the confidential settlement when university senior vice president John Burness made disparaging comments about the former coach.

The newspaper reported that the lawsuit asks the state court to void the settlement and hold a trial on Pressler's claim of wrongful termination.

Pressler did not return a call seeking comment Friday night, and his agent declined to comment.

Lacrosse players Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans were indicted last year on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual offense, after a stripper told police she was raped at a March 2006 party thrown by the lacrosse team. They were later cleared by state prosecutors, who concluded no crime occurred and found the trio to be the innocent victims of former Durham County prosecutor Mike Nifong.

Nifong was disbarred for his actions in the lacrosse case. He resigned from office and spent a night in jail after a judge held him criminal contempt of court for his conduct during the case. Pressler now coaches at Division II Bryant in Rhode Island.

In June, the three players reached an undisclosed financial settlement with Duke. Last week, they filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Nifong, the city of Durham and the police detectives who handled the case, among others.

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