Duke Lacrosse Scandal

Duke Lacrosse Sexual Assault Case

Duke Lacrosse Scandal img
In March, 2006, a woman who had been hired to dance at a party held by members of the Duke University lacrosse team told the police that she had been sexually assaulted by three players. Later that spring, the three were indicted on charges of rape, sexual assault and kidnapping by Michael B. Nifong, the district attorney of Durham County, N.C.

Fifteen months later, the students had been exonerated and Mr. Nifong had been removed from his post amid scathing criticism of his handling of the case.

In between the charges and their dismissal, the case touched nerves of race, sex and privilege, both nationally and in Durham, because the accuser was a poor, black local woman and the students were relatively affluent, white out-of-staters. It also tapped into a debate about the off-the-field behavior of college athletes and the proper role of big-money sports on America's university campuses.

Eventually, the case came to be seen by many -- especially among the players' supporters and on the Internet -- as a morality play of justice run off the rails by political correctness and the political ambitions of Mr. Nifong.

On April 11, 2007, the final charges against the three young men were dropped by the state attorney general, Roy A. Cooper, who had taken over the case. "We have no credible evidence that an attack occured,'' Mr. Cooper said.

On June 15, during a hearing on the ethics charges against him, Mr. Nifong announced that he would resign. The ethics panel hearing the case voted to disbar him, after ruling that that Mr. Nifong had made inflammatory remarks, withheld DNA evidence and misled a judge in the case. On June 19, Durham County's senior judge ordered Mr. Nifong suspended immediately, after learning that Mr. Nifong did not intend to step down until July.