Duke suspect's D.C. deal voided

Trial set in unrelated assault case as a result of Finnerty's N.C. arrest

April 26, 2006|By RONA MARECH | RONA MARECH,SUN REPORTER

WASHINGTON -- A deal that allowed one of two Duke University lacrosse players charged with raping a stripper to avoid a trial in an unrelated assault case was revoked yesterday in D.C. Superior Court, and a tentative trial date was set.

Collin Finnerty, 19, was arrested and charged with simple assault in November, after a fight broke out outside a Georgetown bar. The alleged victim told police that Finnerty and two friends had taunted then beat him.

The charges would have been dismissed once Finnerty completed 25 hours of community service, but the presiding judge, John H. Bayly Jr., determined yesterday that Finnerty had violated the terms of the agreement he had struck as a first-time offender. That agreement specifies that he could not be arrested in connection with any criminal offenses.

Finnerty's lawyer, Steven J. McCool, requested that the selection of a trial date and possibly the trial itself be delayed, arguing that the pending case in North Carolina could interfere with the assault case. To bolster his case, McCool submitted Finnerty's high school report card and character reference letters from a priest, a businessman and the president of the high school Finnerty attended.

Bayly said he would consider the request but in the meantime set the trial date for July 10. Finnerty, who remains free until then, could face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 if convicted of simple assault.

Codefendants Patrick Bonanno and Daniel D'Agnes will not be tried - their previous agreements stand - but the judge modified their curfew. Despite arguments from defense lawyers that they had "absolutely nothing to do with anything that happened in North Carolina," the judge said they, along with Finnerty, had to remain in their homes between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The judge also told the three defendants they had to avoid places where alcohol is consumed and to stay away from the alleged victim.

"This incident has been grossly mischaracterized," McCool said outside the courthouse.

According to court documents, Jeffrey O. Bloxsom told police his attackers "punched him in the face and body, because he told them to stop calling him gay and other derogatory names." But McCool emphasized that Finnerty has not been charged with a bias crime.

In the North Carolina case that has roiled the Durham community, stirred racial tensions and captured attention around the world, Reade William Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J., and Finnerty, of Garden City, N.Y., were charged with first-degree forcible rape, first-degree sexual offense and kidnapping. The crimes allegedly took place during a lacrosse team party where the accuser, a 27-year-old stripper, and another woman performed. The two students are scheduled to appear in court again May 15.

District Attorney Michael B. Nifong said he hopes to charge a third man in the case, even as defense lawyers deny that their clients were involved in a crime.

rona.marech@baltsun.com

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