City, Duke lacrosse players settle

May. 16, 2014 @ 11:02 AM

City officials announced Friday they’d settled one of the two remaining lawsuits spawned by the Duke lacrosse case.

Filings in federal court confirmed that the city had settled with 2005-06 Duke men’s lacrosse players David Evans, Colin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann. All three had been indicted on rape charges in 2006 but were exonerated a year later.

A statement issued by the city said officials had agreed to make a one-time grant of $50,000 to the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission, a state panel set up to review post-conviction claims that claims that a person accused of a crime is actually innocent.

The city’s statement also said it “fully concurs” with state Attorney General Roy Cooper’s decision in 2007 to drop the charges on the grounds that Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann “were innocent.”

The players were accused of attacking stripper Crystal Mangum at a team party. Cooper and his staff determined Mangum’s story didn’t match any of the evidence available to police and prosecutors.

Lawyers for the players sued the city late in 2007, alleging that police had conspired with former District Mike Nifong to frame the trio.

But the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012 threw out the players’ federal civil-rights claims, leaving them primarily the option of pursuing a common-law malicious-prosecution case against the two Durham Police Department detectives who’d handled the case. That and a related claim against the city under the state constitution have now been dropped.

The city’s statement on the settlement noted that Nifong was a state employee, had been disbarred for his actions in the case and also been convicted of criminal contempt. Those decisions stemmed in part from the prosecutor’s attempts to hide from the players the fact that DNA testing had found that while Mangum had had sex recently with several men, none were Duke lacrosse players.

Lawyers for the players argued that Mangum’s story was obviously not credible. But the city in settling the case said it "believes that its police officers had an obligation to investigate the allegations” she made and that it believes “no police officer nor any other city employee engaged in improper conduct.”

Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann as part of the case also sued Nifong. Federal court filings indicated they had settled that claim as well.

The settlements left Linwood Wilson, a former investigator for the DA’s office, as the sole remaining defendant in the lawsuit. He has been representing himself, instead of employing a lawyer.

The city is still in litigation with three other members of the 2005-06 Duke team who escaped indictment in 2006. That case remained unsettled ahead of a conference Friday morning between lawyers and U.S. District Court Judge James Beaty Jr.

A third lawsuit, filed by 38 unindicted members of the team, was dropped last year after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to reinstate the federal civil-rights claims against the city.