Former Duke Lacrosse Players Seeking $30 Million Injury Settlement from City of Durham
By Mike Stetzer
After having their academic and athletic careers at Duke University shattered and their lives forever impacted by prosecutor Mike Nifong, the three Blue Devils lacrosse players who were accused of raping a black stripper at a team party last year are fighting back.
Injury lawyers for Collin Finnerty, Reade Seligmann and Dave Evans have asked for a $30 million personal injury settlement from the city of Durham in addition to changes to the city's legal process following the controversial Duke lacrosse case.
Last year, Durham District Attorney Nifong had these three Duke lacrosse players indicted for allegedly raping a stripper at a party held by members of the team. However, North Carolina state prosecutors later dropped the charges against the three white males when it was learned that Nifong had "rushed to accuse" them.
Specifically, Nifong was found to be in violation of more than two dozen rules of the state's code of professional conduct, including hiding evidence that would have been beneficial to the criminal defense case of the three players. Nifong was not only fired from his job as Durham D.A. but also disbarred.
Nifong spent 24 hours in a North Carolina jail last weekend for his dishonest actions during the Duke lacrosse case.
With the history of the Duke lacrosse case covered, attorneys Brendan Sullivan and Barry Scheck are now asking the city for approximately $10 million for each of the three former players, who have all left the university. Both lawyers have said that they will file a $30 million civil rights lawsuit against Durham if it does not agree to the terms of the settlement demand by next month. Nifong, of course, secured his indictments with the help of the Durham police department.
It is not known at this point how the city of Durham will respond to this settlement demand. The city currently has a $5 million liability insurance policy with a $500,000 deductible. Of further note, the city recently stopped a special committee from investigating the handling of the Duke lacrosse case after its liability provider warned that civil lawsuits could ensue from any findings.
The lawyers for the former Duke lacrosse players are not limiting their demands from the city of Durham to money. Sullivan and Scheck are also calling for legal reforms, including the creation of an ombudsman who can investigate future allegations of misconduct by Durham district attorneys. These lawyers are also asking that Durham city officials go to the state's General Assembly and lead the calls for changes to the legal system.