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Rape Accusation Ruined Lives, Students Say

NY- In their first news interviews, three former Duke University students told the CBS News program “60 Minutes” that they were falsely accused of raping a woman hired to dance at a lacrosse team party last March.

One of the men has graduated from Duke, while the other two, who were sophomores, have been suspended from the university pending the outcome of the case, they said on the program, which was shown yesterday. They are free on $100,000 bail while awaiting a trial expected to start next spring.

“This woman has destroyed everything I worked for in my life,” said the student who graduated, David F. Evans, 23, [pictured] of Annapolis, Md. “And, worst of all, she’s split apart a community and a nation on facts that just didn’t happen and a lie that should have never been told.”

Also appearing on the show was James E. Coleman Jr., a professor at Duke’s law school who criticized the prosecutor in the case and accused him of misconduct. Mr. Coleman, who led a university review of the men’s lacrosse program after the party, said of Michael B. Nifong, the Durham County district attorney, “I think in this case, it appears that this prosecutor has set out to develop whatever evidence he could to convict people he already concluded were guilty.”

In June, Mr. Coleman said Mr. Nifong should ask the state attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor and remove himself from the case. Mr. Coleman said Mr. Nifong “pandered to the community” and set up an improper photo lineup to identify suspects.

In a telephone interview last night, Mr. Coleman said, “He has forgotten about his obligation to protect the innocent, and in my view, that’s prosecutorial misconduct.”

Mr. Nifong did not return telephone calls and e-mail messages yesterday. The accuser, a student at North Carolina Central University, could not be contacted.

Mr. Nifong has said that he, the police and the woman are determined to take the case to trial despite a tide of criticism. Mr. Nifong has said that there is medical evidence of rape and that the woman made valid identifications of the suspects, both points challenged by “60 Minutes” after what the show said was a review of nearly the entire case file.

Mr. Evans, the team captain, told “60 Minutes” that he regretted his decision to give a party with alcohol and hire strippers.

“I was naïve, I was young, I was sheltered,” he said. “And I made a terrible judgment. In five months I’ve learned more than I did in 22 years about life.”

One of the suspended students, Reade W. Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J., said the police had never interviewed him about the case. He also said the district attorney did not want to see evidence proving he left the event shortly after the dancing stopped and before the alleged rape could have occurred.

The other suspended student, Collin Finnerty, 20, of Garden City, N.Y., said he also had evidence showing he left the party early, but did not want to reveal it before trial. He said he left the party after the women stopped dancing and never saw them again.

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