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Three players not originally charged file suit against school, prosecutor

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Three current and former Duke lacrosse
players -- but not the ones indicted in a discredited rape case --
sued the university, a disgraced prosecutor and dozens of others
Tuesday, claiming the prosecution damaged them, too.

Ryan McFadyen, Matthew Wilson and Breck Archer accuse the
defendants of pursuing the case despite evidence the allegations
were false.

The 389-page lawsuit, filed in federal court in Greensboro,
names 45 defendants who include Mike Nifong -- the former Durham
district attorney who was disbarred for misconduct in the case --
police investigators, city officials and nurses who examined the
accuser.

The plaintiffs, who allege negligence, fraud and conspiracy,
accuse Nifong of pursuing the criminal charges for political gain
amid a closely contested Democratic primary.

"This case is a reckoning; it is an accounting of those who
were willing to obstruct and pervert justice to serve their own
selfish aims, those who had the power to intervene and did not, and
the damage they have done," the lawsuit reads.

The players seek unspecified damages.

While the school "made some mistakes when the allegations first
surfaced," the lawsuit should be targeted at others, university
officials said in a news release.

"Duke University reasonably relied on the statements of a
prosecutor whose path of destruction could be stopped only by the
North Carolina attorney general," the statement read, noting that
Duke has offered to reimburse the attorneys' fees and expenses of
players who weren't indicted.

Kimberly Grantham, senior assistant city attorney for Durham,
said she wasn't prepared to comment because she hadn't read the
entire lawsuit.

Bob Ekstrand, a Durham lawyer representing the players, did not
immediately return a call for comment.

Jim Craven, the attorney representing Nifong in a separate
lawsuit filed by the three players falsely charged in the case,
declined to comment through an office assistant. A call to Nifong's
home Tuesday was not immediately returned.

McFadyen, Wilson and Archer were members of the lacrosse team
when three other players were indicted after a black woman told
police she was raped at a March 2006 team party where she was hired
as a stripper.

The men were among 46 of the team's 47 members who complied with
a judge's order to provide DNA samples and be photographed. The
team's sole black member was not tested because the woman said her
attackers were white.

Duke suspended McFadyen amid the criminal investigation for an
e-mail he sent shortly after the team party in which he described
how he would kill and skin strippers, according to court documents.
Administrators later reinstated McFadyen, noting that his remarks
were "in jest" and a takeoff from "American Psycho," a novel by
Bret Easton Ellis made into a movie about a serial killer.

The lawsuit includes an allegation that authorities put the
e-mail's contents in a search warrant application, knowing it would
be public record, but deleted previous messages in the same string
that showed McFadyen was joking.

McFadyen, of Mendham, N.J., is a senior listed on the 2007-08
Blue Devils roster. Wilson, of Durham, and Archer, of East Quogue,
N.Y., were listed as seniors on the spring 2006-07 roster, but it
was unclear whether they still attend the university.

Nifong won indictments last year against former players Reade
Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans. But the case crumbled
amid questions about the accuser's story, and Nifong turned over
the prosecution to the state.

Attorney General Roy Cooper dismissed the remaining charges in
April, calling the three innocent victims of Nifong's "tragic rush
to accuse."

Nifong resigned shortly after he was disbarred. He spent a night
in jail after being found in criminal contempt for lying to the
court during a hearing in the case.

Seligmann, Finnerty and Evans reached an undisclosed financial
settlement with Duke in June and are no longer students there. They
have filed a federal lawsuit against Nifong, the city and the
police detectives who handled the case, among others.