Defense Hopeful Prosecutors Could Announce Duke Rape Case Decision This Week

The three men indicted in the Duke lacrosse sexual assault case could learn this week whether state prosecutors plan to bring them to trial or drop the charges, a person close to the case said Tuesday.

The attorney general's office, which has said for several weeks it was close to completing its investigation since taking the case from the district attorney, has wrapped up additional interviews, said the person, who spoke to The Associated Press on a condition of anonymity because a formal announcement has not been made.

A spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office said Tuesday no announcement in the case was scheduled. No motions or court papers were filed in the case on Tuesday.

"There is some hope that there might be an answer from the attorney general this week at some point," said defense attorney Wade Smith, who represents player Collin Finnerty.

Finnerty, Reade Seligmann and David Evans were indicted on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual offense last spring after a woman told police she was assaulted at a March 2006 team party where she was hired to perform as a stripper. All three have steadfastly maintained their innocence, with Evans calling the allegations "fantastic lies."

Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong dropped the rape charges in December after the accuser changed a key detail in her story, and recused himself a few weeks later after the state bar charged him with several ethics violations tied to his handling of the case. If convicted, Nifong could be disbarred.

Nifong's recusal put the players' fate in the hands of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who promised "a fresh and thorough review of the facts" when he took over the case in January.

There were other signs Tuesday that an announcement from Cooper might come soon. Seligmann, 21, of Essex Fells, N.J., and his family arrived at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, and Smith said the Finnerty family was also expected to arrive later Tuesday from their home in Garden City, N.Y.

"We are not going to have any expectations until we hear officially," Smith said. "When we get the word, we'll have the word."

Evans' attorney, Joseph Cheshire, declined to comment when asked if his client was planning to be in Raleigh on Wednesday.

While Evans, 24, of Bethesda, Md., graduated the day before he was indicted in May, Duke temporarily suspended sophomores Finnerty and Seligmann in the wake of their arrest. Finnerty, 20, was also convicted in July in an unrelated assault case in Washington, D.C., and sentenced to six months of probation.

Finnerty and Seligmann were both invited to return to campus, but neither has accepted. John Danowski, the former coach at Hofstra who took over the Duke program last summer, has also said that both are welcome to continue their lacrosse careers with the Blue Devils.

Finnerty's father said it has been a 'horrific' year, and said odds were low that his son would return to Duke.

"The waiting process is wearing us down emotionally," Finnerty's father, Kevin Finnerty, in a telephone interview. "We take comfort in the fact that these prosecutors are searching for the truth. And that's different from how we felt before their involvement."