Two members of the Duke University lacrosse team are free on bond today after being arrested for kidnapping and rape. The charge is a result from a team party last month at a house near the university's Durham, North Carolina, campus. Prosecutors say the players sexually assaulted a woman who was hired to perform at the party as an exotic dancer. Lawyers for the players say the charges are false. NPR's Adam Hochberg reports.

ADAM HOCHBERG reporting:

The two suspects are both 20 years old and both college sophomores, gifted athletes, who attended exclusive prep schools. Now, they face possible life-prison terms. Reade Seligmann of Essex Falls, N.J., and Collin Finnerty of Garden City, N.Y., each face first-degree murder charges of forcible rape, sexual offense and kidnapping. They were arrested early this morning and released on $400,000 bond.

After a brief hearing today, Seligmann's attorney, Kirk Osborn, was surrounded by reporters in the courthouse hallway. He called the charges a miscarriage of justice.

Mr. KIRK OSBORN (Seligmann's attorney): This is a family--this kid is an honorable kid. He's never done anything wrong in his life. He's absolutely innocent, and we intend to show that sooner, rather than later.

HOCKBERG: Today's arrest follow a month-long investigation into what happened at a lacrosse team party during spring break. A 27-year-old woman, hired to entertain as an exotic dancer, told police several players sexually assaulted her in a bathroom. The suspects are white. The woman is black, and, for many people in Durham, the case has racial overtones.

Mr. WILLIAM BARBER (President, North Carolina NAACP): Let me say good morning to all of you...

HOCKBERG: Today, after the arrest, African-American leaders gathered to show support for the alleged victim. The president of the North Carolina NAACP, William Barber, described the woman as a young mother who's been traumatized, and he said the lacrosse players spiraled from a life of privilege to one of decadence.

Mr. BARBER: 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.

HOCKBERG: That initial evidence has been the subject of debate in Durham. A hospital exam after the party concluded the woman had been sexually assaulted, but DNA tests later failed to find a match between the players and samples taken from her body. Prosecutors say it's not unusual for DNA tests to come back negative and say they have other evidence a crime occurred, but for Duke students like Eric Aldridge(ph), a graduate economics major, the test results have raised questions about the woman's allegation.

Mr. ERIC ALDRIDGE: It would be pretty unlikely not to find something, given the tests that they did. And so, yeah, it cast a huge doubt over my mind, and I would feel horrible if they were convicted of something that they didn't do.

HOCKBERG: Aldridge is quick to add, though, that even if no rape took place, he feels the lacrosse team was behaving badly at the party, and that's a sentiment echoed by many Duke students, who say reports about the bawdy gathering have harmed the reputation of an elite university that owes its heritage to the Methodist church. Duke's president has begun an investigation of the culture on campus. Meanwhile, prosecutors say they're pursuing additional indictments for a possible third assailant.

Adam Hockberg, NPR News, Chapel Hill, N.C.

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