RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Duke lacrosse saga may finally be coming to a close.
Three members of Duke University's lacrosse
team are expected to learn Wednesday afternoon that state prosecutors
will drop the remaining charges accusing them of sexually
assaulting an exotic dancer at a team party, ESPN's George Smith and ABC News are reporting. "I think it's likely that they will do that," Wade Smith,
an attorney for charged player Collin Finnerty, told The Associated Press. "We certainly hope
that would be true."
The office of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper told the AP the announcement would be made Wednesday afternoon. Cooper took over the case in January after the
local district attorney was accused of several ethics violations
tied to his handling of the sensational case.
The three players -- Reade Seligmann, David Evans and Finnerty -- were facing charges of first degree kidnapping and first degree forcible sexual offense. After the party on the night of March 13, 2006, one of two dancers hired to perform claimed she had been violently raped in a bathroom by members of the lacrosse team.
All three have steadfastly maintained their innocence, with Evans calling the allegations "fantastic lies."
Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong dropped the rape
charges in December after the accuser changed a key detail in her
story, and recused himself a few weeks later after the state bar
charged him with several ethics violations tied to his handling of the case.
The North Carolina State Bar is scheduled to hold a hearing on Friday to consider a motion to dismiss the charges against Nifong. Among the ethics charges, Nifong is accused of withholding potentially exculpatory DNA evidence from the defense and lying to both the court and bar investigators. Nifong faces a June trial before the bar and could be disbarred if convicted.
Nifong's recusal put the players' fate in the hands of Cooper, who promised "a fresh and
thorough review of the facts" when he took over the case in January.
There were signs earlier Tuesday that an announcement from Cooper
might come soon. Seligmann, 21, of Essex Fells, N.J., and his
family arrived at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, and Smith
said the Finnerty family was also expected to arrive later Tuesday
from their home in Garden City, N.Y.
"We are not going to have any expectations until we hear
officially," Smith said. "When we get the word, we'll have the
Evans' attorney, Joseph Cheshire, declined to comment when asked
if his client was planning to be in Raleigh on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, The Baltimore Sun reported on Wednesday that parents of Duke team members have asked if the university will pay the legal fees, estimated as high as $3 million, incurred by the families of the accused players.
The Sun, citing family members present at a meeting between them, Duke president Richard Brodhead and Robert Steel, the chair of Duke's board of trustees, the request was neither granted nor refused.
While Evans, 24, of Bethesda, Md., graduated the day before he
was indicted in May, Duke temporarily suspended sophomores Finnerty
and Seligmann in the wake of their arrest. Finnerty, 20, was also
convicted in July in an unrelated assault case in Washington, D.C.,
and sentenced to six months' probation.
Finnerty and Seligmann were both invited to return to campus,
but neither has accepted. John Danowski, the former coach at
Hofstra who took over the Duke program last summer, has also said
that both are welcome to continue their lacrosse careers with the
Finnerty's father said it has been a "horrific" year, and said
odds were low that his son would return to Duke.
"The waiting process is wearing us down emotionally,"
Finnerty's father, Kevin Finnerty, in a telephone interview. "We
take comfort in the fact that these prosecutors are searching for
the truth. And that's different from how we felt before their
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.