Rape Charges Dropped Against Duke Lacrosse Players

12/22/2006 at 05:00 PM EST

Rape Charges Dropped Against Duke Lacrosse Players
Clockwise from left: David Evans, Colin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann
AP (3)
Durham, N.C., prosecutors have dropped rape charges against three former Duke University lacrosse players accused of attacking a stripper.

In court papers filed Friday by the Durham district attorney Michael Nifong, he cited a lack of any "scientific or other evidence independent of the victim's testimony" for dismissing the rape charges against David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann. The accuser told a prosecution investigator the day before that she now doesn't know if she was penetrated during the alleged attack, the Associated Press reports.

The rape charge dismissal comes a week after the director of a private DNA testing lab admitted that in an agreement with prosecutor Nifong he initially withheld test results showing none of the players' DNA was found on or in the accuser's body.

Nifong had previously said he could rely on the woman's account because of a lack of DNA evidence against the players.

In the wake of the rape charge dismissal, defense attorneys Joseph Cheshire (for Evans) and Wade Smith (for Finnerty) held a press conference Friday afternoon, calling for a dismissal of the remaining charges.

"What we have now, ladies and gentleman, is a prosecutor who has said his entire case rises and falls on the statement of the accuser and is going forward with a case when he knows he has multiple different contradictory statements from that person," Cheshire said during the press conference.

The accuser, a 28-year-old African-American student at North Carolina Central University, told police she was attacked by the three men in a bathroom at a March 13 Duke lacrosse team party where she was hired to perform.

Evans, 23, Finnerty, 19, and Seligmann, 20, who have continued to maintain their innocence, still face kidnapping and sexual offense charges.

Cheshire said both rape and sexual offense carry the same possible sentence of up to 24 years in prison, while kidnapping is a lesser felony punishable by up to seven years behind bars.

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