City lacrosse-case defense costs now at $6.4M

Nov. 20, 2013 @ 06:44 PM

The city’s defense against a trio of lawsuits spawned by the Duke lacrosse case so far has cost nearly $6.4 million, City Attorney Patrick Baker’s staff says.

Insurance covered $5 million of those expenses.

Taxpayers have footed the remaining $1.4 million, Senior Assistant City Attorney Kim Rehberg said in an email after the U.S. Supreme Court recently declined the second of two procedural appeals it’d received from former Duke players.

The bills to taxpayers include a $500,000 insurance deductible the city paid at the outset of the litigation and $527,727 it’s paid since hitting its coverage limit in 2012.

City officials also rang up $359,113 in extra costs litigating with its insurer, the American International Group, in an ultimately vain attempt to overcome AIG’s coverage limit.

Rehberg acknowledged that “was an elective move on the part of the city to try to procure more resources in the event these cases went to trial and resulted in bad outcomes,” namely “large judgments against the city.”

The lawsuits all contended that police mishandled the 2006 investigation of stripper Crystal Mangum’s false claim that she’d been raped at a party by members of Duke University’s 2005-06 men’s lacrosse team.

Lawyers for the players allege that police in fact conspired with former District Attorney Mike Nifong to frame them.

But rulings by a trial judge and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals have sharply narrowed the scope of the lawsuits, eliminating all claims in them based on federal civil-rights law.

One group of players who faced indictment in 2006 has the courts’ go-ahead to pursue a malicious-prosecution claim against two detectives who handled the case.

Judges are allowing separate groups of unindicted players to pursue only a catch-all claim that their due-process rights under the state constitution were violated during the investigation.

The indicted-but-exonerated players and a group of three unindicted players asked the Supreme Court to restore at least some of the federal civil-rights claims.

But the high court refused to intervene.

The larger of the two groups of unindicted players signaled in late August that absent Supreme Court intervention, it’d drop its remaining state-law claim against the city.

The remaining players, indicted and otherwise, to date haven’t offered any public sign of being willing to abandon the litigation.

The oldest of the lawsuits dates from the fall of 2007.