Duke Defense Lawyers Say Evidence May Give Arrested Lacrosse Players Alibis
DURHAM, N.C. – Defense lawyers in the Duke lacrosse rape case say they have evidence that may prove at least one, maybe two, of the players arrested Tuesday are innocent.
The Durham prosecutor also said he hopes to charge a third person in the case.
A source close to the case told FOX News that there are credit card receipts, ATM receipts and/or taxi cab receipts that may establish that one or both of the accused players were not at the off-campus Durham house in which the alleged rape took place at the time of the alleged attack.
Defense lawyers are meeting Tuesday afternoon and may release a statement with more details.
Reade Seligmann, 20, and Collin Finnerty, 19, were being held on $400,000 bond each. Seligmann had posted bond by 7:30 a.m. EDT and his attorney waived his court appearance. They are being charged with rape, sexual offense and kidnapping,
The arrests come little more than a month after a 27-year-old black stripper told police she was raped by three white males at a party thrown by the lacrosse team at an off-campus house. The players have maintained their innocence and claim no such attack happened.
District Attorney Mike Nifong said authorities still are trying to identify a third person in connection with the case. The indictments, unsealed Tuesday, did not indicate what possible evidence or arguments led the grand jury Monday to indict Finnerty and Seligmann.
Click here to read the indictments (pdf).
Nifong would not discuss the evidence, either.
"It had been my hope to charge all three of the assailants at the same time, but the evidence available to me at this moment does not permit that," Nifong said. "Investigation into the identity of the third assailant will continue in the hope that he can also be identified with certainty."
Finnerty, who posted bond later Tuesday, appeared in court around 10:30 a.m. EDT. The judge was reviewing the charges against him and the names of his attorneys. The judge set May 15 as the date for the next hearing for both men.
Defense Attorneys: These Men Are Innocent
Seligmann is a 6-foot-1 sophomore from Essex Fells, N.J., while Finnerty is a 6-foot-3 sophomore from Garden City, N.Y. Earlier Tuesday they were led out of separate police cruisers in handcuffs. One was wearing a suit jacket and the other was in a dress shirt and jeans.
Seligmann is "absolutely innocent," said his attorney, Kirk Osborn. "He's doing great. That's all I have to say."
Asked what led to the indictments, Osborn said: "Apparently it was a photographic identification. And we all know how reliable that is."
Finnerty's attorney, Bill Cotter, said, "We're surprised that anybody got indicted, quite frankly."
"The next jury will hear the entire story, which includes our evidence, and we're confident that these young men will be found to be innocent," he said.
Calls to the Finnerty and Seligmann homes Tuesday morning were not immediately returned. No one answered the door at the house, which sits in a cul-de-sac of million-dollar homes. A lacrosse net and equipment could be seen on the yard, which abuts a golf course.
Shortly after the allegations surfaced last month, Seligmann's father, Philip Seligmann, spoke to The New York Times about the allegations involving the team, saying, "It's unfortunate, but it will all be resolved positively very shortly."
Brian Loftus, of Syosset, N.Y., the father of two players on the team, told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Tuesday that he approached one of his sons and asked him about the alleged attack.
"I asked him 10 times. I said, 'Did anything happen?' Both my sons ... all they ever told me was 'Dad, nothing happened. Nobody did anything,"' Loftus said.
"Knowing Reade Seligmann as well as we do here at Delbarton, I believe him innocent of the charges included in the indictment issued yesterday in North Carolina," said a statement from the Delbarton School, an all-boys Catholic prep school in Morristown, N.J., where Seligmann attended high school. "The hearts and prayers of our school community go out to Reade and his family, the woman who has made the accusations, the players on the Duke Lacrosse team and their families. It is our hope and our conviction that the full truth of all that happened that night will vindicate Reade of these charges."
The accuser, a student at North Carolina Central University and mother of two, told police she was attacked March 13 by three white men in a bathroom at a party held by the lacrosse team. DNA tests failed to prove conclusively that any of the 46 team members assaulted the woman. The 47th member of the team, who is black, was not tested since the accuser said her alleged attackers were white.
Defense attorneys have urged Nifong to drop the case, saying that he has no DNA proof that the team was involved in any assault; Nifong has argued that 75 percent to 80 percent of rape prosecutions lack DNA evidence. According to court records, a medical examination of the woman found injuries consistent with rape.
The racially charged allegations have led to near daily protest rallies and increased scrutiny on the town. But the protests have evolved into prayer rallies as the community continues to call for healing and fairness.
"We've said all along that these were allegations" and didn't take the rape claims as fact, Durham Mayor William Bell told FOX News.
"We understand this is the first stage of this investigation. What we've told our police officers is be thorough — we'd like you to expedite as much as possible but we don't want you to sacrifice accuracy for expediency."
Durham said he's not worried about the lack of DNA evidence, adding: "We have a very confident district attorney and we have a very confident police force and they've done what needs to be done and we'll see where it goes from there."
Duke University President Richard Brodhead released a statement Tuesday, noting that the case "has taken new twists and turns virtually every day."
"In this situation of inflamed passions and painful uncertainty, I have emphasized the importance of not rushing to judgment and allowing the legal system to establish the truth. I'm grateful that other Durham leaders, notably Mayor Bell and North Carolina Central Chancellor Ammons, have urged patience as well," Brodhead said. "It is worth reminding ourselves that in our system of laws, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty."
Defense attorneys have said time-stamped photos taken the night of the party show that the alleged victim was injured and impaired before she arrived. Police recordings also indicate that the alleged victim was "just passed out drunk" in someone else's car in the early hours of March 14, after the alleged assault took place.
Defense attorneys have refuted most points made by the accuser. She claims she lost some of her fingernails in the alleged attack, yet the team claims they must have fallen off. Although there were reports of nail polish on the banister of the house where the woman claims the incident took place — which the prosecution could point to as signs of a struggle — the counter argument is that the woman was painting her fingernails at the party and got nail polish on the banister herself.
There's also word that one of the defense photos shows the accuser walking out of the house with the nail polish.
"I want to believe that they're going to be found innocent if it goes to trial ... but I hope the truth comes out as it goes on down the line," said Chuck Sherwood of Freeport, N.Y., whose son Devon is the team's sole black player. "I think this case has a long way to go."
According to the Raleigh News & Observer, on the same day Finnerty was ordered to provide DNA samples in the Duke rape investigation, he was in Washington to face charges that he assaulted a man last fall. Court records show that Finnerty, then 19 years old, and two friends were arrested early Nov. 5. Finnerty was charged with simple assault.
The charges come two weeks before Nifong, appointed to the job last year after nearly three decades as a lawyer in the district attorney's office, is up for election.
The school canceled the highly ranked team's season and accepted the resignation of coach Mike Pressler after the release of a vulgar and graphic e-mail that was sent by a team member shortly after the alleged assault.
University officials on Monday said the lacrosse coach was warned last year that his players had too many violations of the campus judicial code and he needed to "get them in line."
FOX News' Megyn Kendall, Liza Porteus, Marianne Silber and The Associated Press contributed to this report.