Depressing similarities link the two highest-profile allegations of campus sexual assault in recent years — the fraudulent gang rape claims against Duke lacrosse players in 2006, and Rolling Stone writer Sabrina Erdely’s multiply discredited portrayal in November of a sadistically brutal gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity. Even more depressing is another comparison between the two cases. While campus journalists and many other students at Duke were refreshingly open to evidence and critical thinking as the case there unfolded, the vast majority of U-Va. students have been sheep-like. They have emulated — or at least tolerated — the […]
More than a dozen major newspapers and magazines have rushed in recent weeks to publish reviews heaping praise on what we have demonstrated — and will demonstrate again below — to be a guilt-presuming, fact-challenged new book about the Duke lacrosse rape fraud of 2006. Meanwhile, author William D. Cohan has ratcheted up his wild claims and misleading innuendoes during at least 10 broadcast and print interviews about the book, even, in some cases, after proof of their falsity had been published by us and others. Most of the interviewers have been as fawning as most of the reviewers, leaving […]
The most striking thing about William D. Cohan’s revisionist, guilt-implying new book on the Duke lacrosse rape fraud is what’s not in it. The best-selling, highly successful author’s 621-page The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities adds not a single piece of significant new evidence to that which convinced then–North Carolina attorney general Roy Cooper and virtually all other serious analysts by mid-2007 that the lacrosse players were innocent of any sexual assault on anyone. Unless, that is, one sees as new evidence Cohan’s own stunningly credulous […]
You might think that a university whose students were victims of the most notorious fraudulent rape claim in recent history, and whose professors — 88 of them — signed an ad implicitly presuming guilt, and whose president came close to doing the same would have learned some lessons.
The facts are otherwise. They also suggest that Duke University’s ugly abuse in 2006 and 2007 of its now-exonerated lacrosse players — white males accused by a black stripper and hounded by a mob hewing to political correctness — reflects a disregard of due process and a bias against white males that infect much of academia.
In September, far from taking pains to protect its students from false rape charges, Duke adopted a revised "sexual misconduct" policy that makes a mockery of due process and may well foster more false rape charges by rigging the disciplinary rules against the accused.
Meanwhile, none of the 88 guilt-presuming professors has publicly apologized. (Duke’s president, Richard Brodhead, did — but too little and too late.) Many of the faculty signers — a majority of whom are white — have expressed pride in their rush to judgment. None was dismissed, demoted, or publicly rebuked. Two were glorified this month in Duke’s in-house organ as pioneers of "diversity," with no reference to their roles in signing the ad. Three others have won prestigious positions at Cornell, Vanderbilt, and the University of Chicago.
(Disclosure: I co-authored a 2007 book on the case, Until Proven Innocent, with historian KC Johnson of Brooklyn College and the City University of New York’s Graduate Center. His scrupulously accurate blog details the events summarized here.)
The two stated reasons for the revised sexual-misconduct rules, as reported in the student newspaper, The Chronicle, almost advertise that they were driven by politically correct ideology more than by any surge in sexual assaults.
When a mentally deluded stripper accused three Duke University lacrosse players of a brutal gang rape at a March 2006 off-campus team party during spring break, dozens of activist Duke professors were not content merely to give great credence to the rape charge, even as evidence of its probable fraudulence poured into the public record. They also treated the lacrosse players as pariahs for having hired strippers at all. So, too, did Duke President Richard Brodhead, Board Chairman Robert Steel, other campus administrators, many in the media, and others.
Never mind that hiring strippers violated no law or university rule. Never mind that nobody had made a fuss about the 20-plus stripper parties that other Duke athletic teams, fraternities, and sororities held that year. Brodhead and other officials and professors continued to express horror long after the supposedly "privileged" lacrosse players had abjectly apologized. To underscore its horror, the university adopted a new rule: "Strippers may not be invited or paid to perform at events sponsored by individual students, residential living groups, or cohesive units."
So, some might be surprised to learn that on this year’s Super Bowl Sunday, Duke University played host to a group of strippers, prostitutes, phone-sex operators, and others in a "Sex Workers Art Show" to display their "creativity and genius." The university spent $3,500 from student fees and various programs to pay the performers and cover expenses.
One account of the February 3 show in the on-campus Reynolds Theater-from which I have redacted the more repulsive particulars-was posted on the Internet by Jay Schalin, of the conservative-leaning John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.
JEFFREY BROWN: It was a case with a potent mix of race, sexual violence, and class. The alleged rape of a black woman who had been hired as a stripper at a party by three white members of Duke University’s lacrosse team.
It garnered headlines across the country, stirred turmoil at one of the nation’s leading universities, and then fell apart completely. In the end, North Carolina’s attorney general announced that the three players — Reade Seligmann, Colin Finnerty, and David Evans — were innocent and called Mike Nifong, the local district attorney who brought the case, "a rogue prosecutor."
A new book by Stuart Taylor and K.C. Johnson called "Until Proven Innocent" takes a hard look at what happened. Stuart Taylor, a longtime legal journalist and currently a columnist for the National Journal, joins me now.
Welcome to you.
STUART TAYLOR, Legal Journalist: Nice to be with you.
JEFFREY BROWN: You suggest that the flaws in this case were apparent from the very beginning from the police investigation. Give us a good example.
STUART TAYLOR: The woman who ended up claiming she’d been raped didn’t say anything about it for 90 minutes. She first claimed she has been raped while she was being checked into a mental hospital for involuntary confinement. That was her ticket out.
As soon as she was out, she recanted the rape allegation and told Sergeant John Shelton, "No, I wasn’t raped." And while he was calling that in, somebody says, "Well, she’s changed it again. During the course of the night, she said she had been raped by 20 men, five men, three men, four men, take your pick."
And her story continued to be wild and crazy and inconsistent and implausible, self-contradictory and contradicted by all medical evidence from that point forward. None of the police at the hospital believed her.
One night in jail: So concludes the Duke lacrosse rape case — rape fraud, as it turned out. The legacy of this incident should include hard thinking about the deep pathologies underlying the media sensationalism and the perversion of academic ideals that this fraud inspired.
The 24-hour sentence was imposed on Mike Nifong, the disbarred former district attorney of Durham, after a contempt-of-court trial last week for repeatedly lying to hide DNA evidence of innocence. His prosecution of three demonstrably innocent defendants, based on an emotionally disturbed stripper’s ever-changing account, may be the worst prosecutorial misconduct ever exposed while it was happening. Durham police officers and other officials aided Nifong, and the city and county face the threat of a massive lawsuit by the falsely accused former students seeking criminal justice reforms and compensation.
All this shows how the criminal justice process can oppress the innocent — usually poor people lacking the resources to fight back — and illustrates the need for reforms to restrain rogue prosecutors. But the case was also a major cultural event exposing habits of mind among academics and journalists that contradict what should be their lodestar: the pursuit of truth.
Nifong’s lies, his inflaming of racial hatred (to win the black vote in his election campaign) and his targeting of innocent people were hardly representative of criminal prosecutors. But the smearing of the lacrosse players as racist, sexist, thuggish louts by many was all too representative.
At about 9 p.m. on March 16, 2006, Dave Evans was napping in his room at his rental house on 610 North Buchanan in Durham, North Carolina, when “I woke up to thundering knocks on my door like it was going to be broken down.” The Duke University senior, one of four co-captains of the school’s highly ranked lacrosse team, had just finished a grueling practice. Dave and co-captain Matt Zash, who also lived in the house, yelled to each other about who would get the door. Suddenly Dave heard, “Police! Freeze! Don’t move! Put your hands up!”
He ran into the living room. “There were all these cops with their flashlights in our eyes,” he recalled. “It was like in a movie or something. The next thing you know, they were patting us down, going through our pockets, yelling, ‘Why didn’t you answer the door?’ I said I was sleeping. They shouted, ‘Who was in the backyard?’ ”
The cops said that they had a search warrant. Sgt. Mark Gottlieb and Officer Benjamin Himan had obtained it after interviewing a 27-year-old black woman named Crystal Mangum earlier in the day. An exotic dancer—a stripper—she claimed she was gang-raped at this house three nights earlier. As the officers read from the warrant, Evans and Zash interjected. These were lies, they said, and asked for a chance to tell what really happened.
It was an extraordinary event in American legal history.Â Duke lacrosse teammates Dave Evans, Reade Seligmann and Colin Finnerty knew that North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper was going to drop the sensational sexual assault case against them. But how would Cooper explain it? Would he just say that the charges were not provable beyond a reasonable doubt-which some saw as the safest way out for the attorney general politically-and leave their reputations in limbo? Or would he say the word
It was an extraordinary event in American legal history.Â
Duke lacrosse teammates Dave Evans, Reade Seligmann and Colin Finnerty knew that North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper was going to drop the sensational sexual assault case against them. But how would Cooper explain it? Would he just say that the charges were not provable beyond a reasonable doubt-which some saw as the safest way out for the attorney general politically-and leave their reputations in limbo? Or would he say the word they were waiting for?
Six paragraphs into his statement, Cooper ended their agony: "We believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges." Innocent. Watching on TV, the defendants and their parents, teammates and friends burst into cheers.
Cooper did not stop there. "We have no credible evidence that an attack occurred in that house that night," he said. "The eyewitness identification procedu…
Imagine you are the world’s most powerful newspaper and you have invested your credibility in yet another story line that is falling apart, crumbling as inexorably as Jayson Blair’s fabrications and the flawed reporting on Saddam Hussein’s supposed WMD. What to do?
If you’re the New York Times and the story is the alleged gang rape of a black woman by three white Duke lacrosse players–a claim shown by mounting evidence to be almost certainly fraudulent–you tone down your rhetoric while doing your utmost to prop up a case that’s been almost wholly driven by prosecutorial and police misconduct.
And by bad journalism. Worse, perhaps, than the other recent Times embarrassments. The Times still seems bent on advancing its race-sex-class ideological agenda, even at the cost of ruining the lives of three young men who it has reason to know are very probably innocent. This at a time when many other true believers in the rape charge, such as feminist law professor Susan Estrich, have at last seen through the prosecution’s fog of lies and distortions.
The Times took its stand in a 5,600-word, Page One reassessment of the case on Aug. 25, written by Duff Wilson, a sportswriter responsible for much of the paper’s previous one-sided coverage, and Jonathan Glater. The headline was “Files From Duke Rape Case Give Details But No Answers.”