Duke players decline invitation to return

January 11, 2007|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,Sun Reporter

Two indicted Duke lacrosse players won't be accepting the university's invitation to return to classes this semester.

When spring semester began yesterday, neither Collin Finnerty of Garden City, N.Y., nor Reade Seligmann of Essex Fells, N.J., was among returning students.

"We have indications from the families that they don't intend to come back until their legal cases are resolved," John Burness, a Duke senior vice president, said in an interview.

Both were charged with a sexual offense and kidnapping after an exotic dancer said she was sexually assaulted at an off-campus lacrosse party in March. Rape charges were dropped Dec. 22 because the district attorney said the accuser could not substantiate them. No trial date has been set.

The students, who would have been juniors this year, were placed on interim leave by Duke after the charges were filed in April. A third defendant, David Evans of Bethesda, graduated last May.

On Jan. 3, Duke invited Finnerty and Seligmann to return to school, saying the circumstances in the case "have changed substantially."

University officials said the two probably would have been eligible to return to the team.

The North Carolina State Bar Association recently filed a complaint against District Attorney Michael Nifong, saying he inappropriately made derogatory statements about lacrosse players to the media before anybody was charged.

In a just-released Newsweek interview, Seligmann said he can never put the case far from his mind. "It's there in the morning and it tucks me in at night," he said. "Every time you're happy, you'll remember why you weren't happy."

He told the magazine he wants to become a criminal defense lawyer.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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