The New York Times is still victimizing innocent Dukies.

The conventional wisdom debunked.
Aug. 29 2006 5:22 PM

Witness for the Prosecution?

The New York Times is still victimizing innocent Dukies.

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A sly formulation. Whoever thought it up chose to focus on the legalistic question of whether Nifong can avoid having his case being thrown out before trial, while glossing over the more important question as to whether any reasonable prosecutorcould believe the three defendants to be guilty and force them through the risk, expense, and trauma of a trial.

With all or almost all of the key prosecution evidence now public, the answer to that latter question is no. What we have here is an alleged 30-minute gang rape, plus brutal beating, taking place in a small bathroom by three men without condoms, at least two of whom supposedly ejaculated; a rape in which police found none of the defendants' DNA on the supposed victim and none of hers in the bathroom. While the Times asserts that "experts say it is possible for a rapist to leave no DNA evidence," it's hard to imagine the crime  alleged to have happened here leaving none.

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The accuser first claimed rape while in the process of being involuntarily committed to a mental-health/drug facility as a danger to herself or others. Soon after her release to the hospital for a rape exam, she recanted the charge. Then she re-recanted and offered a succession of wildly inconsistent stories.

The other exotic dancer at the lacrosse party initially told police that they had been apart no more than five minutes and the rape claim was a "crock." (She later hedged after Nifong gave her favorable treatment for a probation violation.)

The 23 pages of hospital reports by two doctors and four nurses show no vaginal or anal tearing, no significant bruises or signs of beating, and no visible injuries other than minor scratches on her knee and heel and a mild swelling of the vaginal walls that could have come from consensual sexual activities, including performing with a vibrator.

She identified none of her alleged attackers in two photo viewings. Then, on April 4, Nifong arranged an outrageously suggestive, pick-any-lacrosse-player session that grossly violated local and state rules and (in my view) the U.S. Constitution. She picked three, of whom at least one since-indicted defendant, Reade Seligmann, has an airtight alibi, including a video showing him at an ATM a mile away at the time of  the supposed rape.

The Times piece mentioned most of this exculpatory evidence but understated its cumulative weight and gave unwarranted credence to contrary evidence of dubious credibility, such as the Gottlieb memo.

This fits the Times's long-standing treatment of the case as a fable of evil, rich white men running amok and abusing poor black women. Sports columnist Selena Roberts helped set the tone in a March 31 commentary seething with hatred for "a group of privileged players of fine pedigree entangled in a night that threatens to belie their social standing as human beings." All but presuming guilt, Roberts parroted false prosecution claims that all team members had observed a "code of silence." (A correction ran six days later). She likened them to "drug dealers and gang members engaged in an anti-snitch campaign."

The Aug. 25 Wilson-Glater piece is more measured in tone, but ultimately it's equally off-base. A few of many possible examples:

Accuser's inconsistent stories:The accuser told police and hospital personnel at least five inconsistent stories of being raped by five, three, two, and zero men (depending on the version). But the Times asserts that "aside from two brief early conversations with police, she gave largely consistent accounts of being raped by three men in a bathroom."

Consistent? Just about the only consistent theme was her eventual settling on three attackers, while variously denying and then alleging that she was hit or kicked.

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