Insurer’s Civil Suit Warning Halts Probe of N.C. Lacrosse Rape Case

August 29, 2007

A special committee probing the Durham, N.C. Police Department’s handing of the Duke lacrosse rape case has stopped its work because the city’s liability insurance provider warned that findings could provide material for civil lawsuits.

A statement released Monday by the city said the probe is in “a holding pattern” until Durham’s attorneys meet next week with lawyers representing former Duke lacrosse players who were falsely accused of rape, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.

The City Council will then decide whether the committee, which is led by a former state Supreme Court justice, will continue or be suspended indefinitely, said Mayor Bill Bell.

Critics have accused police of bungling the investigation through errors of omission and commission, and include a failure to scrutinize discrepancies in the accuser’s account of the attack.

The players have hired high-powered attorneys who have represented clients including O.J. Simpson and Oliver North. Durham’s liability policy is for $5 million with a $500,000 deductible.

“I think after a while the city may end up feeling like General Custer at Little Bighorn,” councilman Eugene Brown said. “He looks around and, to paraphrase, says, ‘Where … are all these lawyers coming from?’ ”

The case started with a woman’s allegations that she was raped at a March 2006 lacrosse team party where she was hired as a stripper. Disgraced former prosecutor Mike Nifong eventually won indictments against David Evans and teammates Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty. But the charges were later dropped, and state Attorney General Roy Cooper went a step farther by declaring the three men innocent victims of Nifong’s “tragic rush to accuse.”


Information from: The News & Observer,

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