Arrests Intensify Interest in Duke Lacrosse Case

Steve Inskeep speaks with Senior Correspondent Juan Williams about the case of two Duke lacrosse players arrested on charges of kidnapping and rape. The suspects say they are innocent. One of them reportedly has evidence showing he was elsewhere at the time of the alleged incident.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Two Duke University Lacrosse players were released on bond yesterday, after being charged with rape and other offenses.

They've been accused of sexual assault by a woman who was hired to dance at a team party last month. The alleged victim is black; a 27-year old mother of two who's working as a stripper to pay her way through college. The men she's accused are white; both prep school graduates from affluent communities in New York and New Jersey.

This case has exposed tensions in the community, as we can hear from William Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP.

Mr. WILLIAM BARBER (President, North Carolina NAACP): All of the ugly aspects of racism, sexism, and classism intersect in these allegations. Now we have indictments. This is not the final proof of guilt, but it is an indication, based on the initial evidence, that something happened.

INSKEEP: For some analysis on what may have happened, we turn to NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams.

Juan, good morning.

JUAN WILLIAMS reporting:

Good morning Steve.

INSKEEP: And Juan is in Durham this week. And we should mention that the first question here, is the legal question. What's next for these two players?

WILLIAMS: Steve, Collin Finnerty, who's 19, and Reade Seligmann, who's 20, both sophomores at Duke, are free at the moment on $400,000 dollars bond; which was posted in cash when they turned themselves in before dawn on Tuesday. They'll be back in court on May 15th.

Now, Finnerty, the 19-year-old, is also dealing with a misdemeanor assault case in Washington, D.C., where he allegedly struck a man, after allegedly hectoring him with gay slurs. The charges there could affect--the charges here I should say--could affect the plea deal in D.C.

INSKEEP: And we have more information coming out here, bit by bit, from defense lawyers, who say that at least one of the two accused men has an alibi.

WILLIAMS: Right, Steve. They're claiming that credit card, ATM, and cab receipts verify that he was not at the party. Now, we're not hearing much from the District Attorney, Mike Nifong, on exactly what he has for a case. He's not talking at the moment. But everyone's saying that there must be some physical evidence, and it's a heavy relying on the exam at the hospital, of the woman.

In addition, you have some corroboration, apparently, coming from a second dancer--who says that the woman was not drunk, was quite stable when she went in to the party--but later was stumbling and incoherent when she left the party.

There's no DNA evidence as yet. The defense says so far the DNA has not tied any members of the Lacrosse team to an assault. Added tests are yet to come back. The next Grand Jury will be May 1st, the day before the Democratic primary here for DA, which is another complicating factor in this case.

And there may yet, be a third person charged in the case.

INSKEEP: We're talking to NPR's Juan Williams. He's in Durham, North Carolina.

And Juan, this case seems to change day-by-day, new information coming out all the time. How do people respond?

WILLIAMS: Well, you know, like we were talking about the idea that there could be a third person charged. Everyone's kind of up in the air. What's this about? Who could that be?

The DA says that he's not yet identified that third person with any certainty, Steve. And then there's the question of what evidence is available. The police were on campus just yesterday, questioning students. Local news is reporting that's part of the attempt to find the third suspect.

Then you have, as you know, in the past, one moment there's no DNA link and people--all kind of feelings and emotions run one way. Then there are the charges that came on Monday, in terms of the sealed indictments, and emotions run in the other direction. So the waters are roiled here. It's very raw.

Out in front of the courthouse, it looks like one of those cable conventions, with all the microwave trucks and cable reporters camped out. So, you can tell things are just very thin here, very raw, Steve.

INSKEEP: Juan, thanks very much.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's senior correspondent Juan Williams. He's giving us the latest in Durham, North Carolina, and he joined us from member station WUNC, in Chapel Hill.

This is NPR News.

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