2 indictments in Duke rape case reported

April 18, 2006|By JEFF BARKER | JEFF BARKER,SUN REPORTER

DURHAM, N.C. -- A grand jury issued sealed indictments in the Duke University rape investigation yesterday, Durham's mayor and a defense attorney said, though the names of those accused remained a mystery.

Mayor William V. Bell, who has been heavily involved in the community's response to allegations that three Duke men's lacrosse players raped a 27-year-old woman at an off-campus party March 13, said his office had confirmed the two indictments.

The mayor said he expects the names of those indicted, along with the charges, to be disclosed as soon as today. "I just want the legal process to follow through," he said, declining to comment further.

"Today, two young men have been charged with crimes they did not commit," attorney Robert Ekstrand, who represents a majority of the players, said in a statement. "This is a tragedy. For the two young men, an ordeal lies ahead. They do not face it alone; they face it with the love of family and friends, and strengthened by the truth. They are both innocent."

The case has provoked demonstrations on and off the Duke campus, student forums and heated talk radio and Internet debate.

Yesterday's grand jury meeting produced confusion as rumors of indictments swirled among the dozens of media members encamped at the Durham County Judicial Center downtown. But when a list of dozens of indictments was released late yesterday afternoon, no lacrosse players' names were on it. Defense attorneys had been seen shuttling between their offices and the court building.

It turned out that not all indictments had appeared on the list. State law allows indictments, which ordinarily list charges and a description of the alleged criminal activity, to be shielded from public view until after the defendant's arrest or voluntary court appearance.

"We are aware that the district attorney made a presentation to the grand jury today, but we have no knowledge about the contents of his presentation, and no information about the grand jury's deliberations has been released," said a statement by John F. Burness, Duke's senior vice president for public affairs and government relations. "Until we have greater clarity, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

Earlier, Duke President Richard H. Brodhead joined Bell in appealing for unity. The case has raised racial tensions because the accuser, an exotic dancer hired to perform at the party, is black and all but one of the lacrosse team members are white.

"We pledge to all of our fellow citizens that we will continue to work together to strengthen the bonds that unite us," Brodhead and Bell said in a full-page ad in a local newspaper.

North Carolina Central University Chancellor James H. Ammons also signed the appeal. The victim of the alleged rape is a student at North Carolina Central, a public college across town from Duke.

The victim told police that she was pulled into a bathroom and raped by three men at a house that authorities say was being rented by three lacrosse co-captains.

Defense attorneys have countered that DNA tests have not linked any of the players to a sexual assault. The attorneys also note a recording in which a police officer said the woman was "passed-out drunk" when she was found after the party.

At least eight of the players are from Maryland, and some have been in periodic contact with their high school coaches.

"I have spoken to almost all of the boys and almost all of the parents of those boys," said Rob Bordley, lacrosse coach at Landon School in Bethesda, which has a handful of graduates on the Duke team. "A number of them have come home on weekends, and they've almost been encouraged to get off of the campus because of the volatile situation."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Lem Satterfield contributed to this article.

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