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Duke players released on bail after arrests

DURHAM, N.C. -- They arrived in the predawn darkness, one in jeans and button-down shirt, the other in a blue blazer, and were taken into the county jail in handcuffs.

By the time the sun rose, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty -- both Duke sophomores, both lacrosse players, both graduates of Northern prep schools -- had regained their freedom.

But, having been charged with the rape of a 27-year-old exotic dancer at an off-campus party, they had become the faces of a scandal that has roiled one of the country's elite college campuses and strained relations with the city it calls home.

Hours after they were arrested, police searched the dorm rooms of Seligmann and Finnerty for more
evidence.

District Attorney Mike Nifong said Tuesday he had hoped to link
a third possible suspect to the alleged attack and bring charges at
the same time, "but the evidence available to me at this time does
not permit that."

The two players' dorm rooms were searched for about two hours
Tuesday night, according to resident assistant Taggart White.
Durham police said they had no information on the search.

"It is important that we not only bring the assailants to justice, but also that we lift the cloud of suspicion from those team members who were not involved in the assault," Nifong said.

Lawyers for Seligmann and Finnerty bitterly assailed the district attorney for bringing the charges. Other attorneys for Duke's lacrosse players said the two were not even present at the time the rape is alleged to have occurred.

Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J., and Finnerty, 19, of Garden City, N.Y., are accused of attacking the dancer at a March 13 team party. They were charged with first-degree rape, sexual offense and kidnapping and were released on $400,000 bail each.

The district attorney would not say what evidence led to the charges. But Seligmann's attorney, Kirk Osborn, said: "Apparently it was a photographic identification. And we all know how reliable that is."

Seligmann is "absolutely innocent," Osborn said. "He's doing great."

Finnerty's attorney, Bill Cotter, said: "The next jury will hear the entire story, which includes our evidence, and we're confident that these young men will be found to be innocent."

The case has raised racial tensions and heightened the long-standing town-vs.-gown antagonism between Duke students and middle class, racially mixed Durham. The accuser is black, and all but one of the 47 lacrosse team members are white.

Well before the scandal, the nationally ranked team had a reputation for a swaggering sense of entitlement and boorish frat-boy behavior that included public intoxication and public urination. After the scandal broke, the university announced an investigation into whether it put up with such behavior for too
long.

The case has led to the resignation of the coach and the cancellation of the rest of the season.

"Many lives have been touched by this case," Duke President Richard Brodhead said in a statement. "It has brought pain and suffering to all involved, and it deeply challenges our ability to balance judgment with compassion. As the legal process unfolds, we must hope that it brings a speedy resolution and that the truth of the events is fully clarified."

The university would not comment specifically on any disciplinary action taken against the two men but said it is university practice to suspend students charged with a felony.

Both players are products of well-to-do New York City suburbs and all-male Roman Catholic prep schools. Finnerty attended Long Island's Chaminade High School, where 99 percent of the students go on to college. Seligmann went to the exclusive Delbarton School, a lacrosse powerhouse in Morristown, N.J.

"It is our hope and our conviction that the full truth of all that happened that night will vindicate Reade of these charges," Delbarton's headmaster, the Rev. Luke L. Travers, said in a statement.

Neither Seligmann and Finnerty was among the Duke team members arrested in recent years for such offenses as underage drinking and public urination.

Finnerty, however, was charged in Washington with assault after a man told police in November that Finnerty and two friends punched him and called him "gay and other derogatory names." Finnerty agreed to community service.

The early-morning surrenders of the 6-foot-1 Seligmann and the 6-foot-3 Finnerty were arranged as part of a deal with Nifong in which they were bailed out of jail in a matter of hours.

At a brief court appearance, Finnerty stood in jacket and tie as a May 15 date was set for the next hearing in the case. Seligmann waived his right to appear in court and was represented by one of his lawyers.

Police searched both men's dormitory rooms for about two hours Tuesday night, according to Taggart White, a resident assistant at the dorm. Durham police said they had no information on the search.

The district attorney has said that the woman making the allegations, a 27-year-old student at a nearby university and mother of two, was attacked by three men. In a statement, Nifong said he hopes to charge a third person, "but the evidence available to me at this time does not permit that. Investigation into the identity of the third assailant will continue in the hope that he can also be identified with certainty."

Attorneys for the players have demanded Nifong drop the investigation, arguing that DNA tests failed to connect any of the team members to the alleged rape. They have also charged that the alleged victim was intoxicated and injured when she arrived at the party.

"This is probably the worst miscarriage of justice I've seen in 34 years of practice," said another Seligmann lawyer, Julian Mack.

According to a filing made by the district attorney's office, the residents of the house where the party took place told police that Seligmann was one of six players who did not attend the party.