When three members of the Duke University men's lacrosse team were indicted for rape last spring, the case put one of the country's most prominent colleges under intense scrutiny, and it pushed onto a national stage divisive issues of race, gender, politics and privilege.
The three players are white, and come from wealthy families; the accuser is black, a local dancer hired to perform at a team party. Over the past six months, 60 Minutes has examined nearly the entire case file, more than 2,000 documents, including police reports, witness statements and medical records. The evidence 60 Minutes has seen reveals disturbing facts about the conduct of the police and the district attorney, and raises serious concerns about whether or not a rape even occurred.
Ed Bradley spoke to some of the key figures in this case, including Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans, who have never been interviewed.
"This woman has destroyed everything I worked for in my life. She's put it on hold. She's destroyed two other families and she's brought shame on a great university. And, worst of all she's split apart a community and a nation on facts that just didn't happen and a lie that should have never been told," says David Evans.
Evans was a co-captain of the lacrosse team and an honors student. He graduated from Duke in May and was headed for a job on Wall Street. Today, at age 23, he is contemplating a future much darker than he ever imagined.
Asked if he ever thinks about the possibility of a conviction and a long prison sentence, Evans tells Bradley, "Thirty years. I could go to jail for something that never happens."
Collin Finnerty, 20, a sophomore and one of most talented young players on the team, is under suspension from Duke pending the outcome of the trial. He says he still can't fathom why he has been accused of rape.
"I never expected anything even close to that happening. I never expected anyone to get indicted, let alone myself," Finnerty says.
The accuser had picked Finnerty out of a line-up. "It's unbelievable. Don't know how, why that happened. But, try to figure that out, I really have no idea how that happened," he says.
His teammate, 20-year-old Reade Seligmann could have played lacrosse at any university he wanted. He was recruited by Harvard and Princeton, but chose to go to Duke. Today, facing felony charges, he is not allowed to set on foot on campus unless he obtains permission from the university.
"Your whole life you try to, you know, stay on the right path, and to do the right things. And someone can come along and take it all away. Just by going like that. Just by pointing their finger. That's all it takes," Seligmann says.
The allegations rocked the city of Durham, and the campus at Duke, setting off angry protests by students, faculty and local residents, who denounced the lacrosse team. David Evans, who lived in the house where the alleged rape occurred, says he actually began to fear for his own safety.
"There were threats of drive-by shootings, acts of violence, assaults, people driving by Duke students and pretending to point guns at them and it was just very scary," Evans explains. "We moved out after the first day because there were mobs in front of the house burning candles, putting terrible things up, asking us to get a conscience, show character. It was terrible."
Police released affidavits stating the accuser's claim that she was pulled into a bathroom by three men and raped "anally, vaginally, and orally" while they "hit, kicked, and strangled" her over a "30 minute" period.
The district attorney, Mike Nifong, took to the airwaves giving dozens of interviews, expressing with absolute certainty that Duke lacrosse players had committed a horrific crime. His comments fueled explosive news coverage and fed public suspicion of the team, before much of the evidence was gathered.
"There's no doubt in my mind that she was raped and assaulted at this location," he said on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor."
D.A. Nifong referred to the lacrosse players "a bunch of hooligans" whose "daddies could buy them expensive lawyers." He played up the racial aspects of the case, but insisted that his public comments had nothing to do with the hotly contested election campaign he was waging in a city with a large black population.
In an instant, the image of the players went from athletes to accused criminals, in the form of mug shots. The Duke lacrosse players had been big men on campus – top students and favorites to win a national title. But it all came crashing down after the players held their annual team party.
The party was at a house on March 13th during spring break at Duke University, located just off campus. It was rented by three captains of the Duke lacrosse team who lived there.
The party that afternoon started about 2 p.m. and as the day wore on, the players were in and out of the house. What is not in dispute here is that there was drinking and two exotic dancers were hired to perform that night. By the time the dancers arrived after 11 p.m., 35 players from the lacrosse team were at the party.
"I'd say at least half of them were tipsy or better. Tipsy or better," says Kim Roberts, the other dancer paid to perform that night and a central witness in the case.
Roberts went by the stage name "Nikki", and has consistently maintained that she never witnessed a sexual assault in the house. But she has wavered in her opinions and recollections about the case. At first she said the allegations by the accuser, known as "Precious," were "a crock." And then later she believed "they were guilty." Now, she says she just wants to stick to the facts.
"I'm not a detective, I'm not the D.A. I'm just a girl who was there. So honestly, what needs to happen is you hear my version, you hear their version, put it together. Sift through the bull. And hopefully come out with as much truth as possible," Roberts tells Bradley.
Roberts gave 60 Minutes a detailed account of what she witnessed at the party that night. She says the dance got underway just around midnight, as seen here in a time-stamped photograph taken by one of the players.
"We were doing, you know, things that strippers are supposed to do," Roberts recalls.
Asked how the players were reacting, she says, "They seemed happy, you know? They seemed eager. They were really ready for us to come. When we came out, they hooted and hollered. I thought they were getting a good little eyeful."
The smiling and the cheering didn't last long. The dancer known as "Precious" soon began stumbling and falling on the floor of the living room. "Precious" later told the police that she had been drinking that night. She was also taking Flexeril, a powerful prescription muscle relaxant.
"At some point you said that she seemed intoxicated," Bradley tells Roberts.
"Yeah, something was going on, you know, where we were stumbling over each other, falling against each other, maybe almost tripping each other. So it started to get a little uncomfortable," she replies.
What happened next would alter the outcome of the entire evening. The women danced for a few minutes until one of the lacrosse players asked them if they had any sex toys. That player then followed up with a provocative comment about a broomstick.
"He asked about the sex toys. I was not offended about that question. Didn't bother me at all. I told him 'Didn't have any. Good idea though fella. You know, that would've, you know, eaten up some time,'" Roberts recalls, laughing. "But as soon as I said that, he said 'Don't worry, don't worry, we'll just use this on you.' And I started to think, 'What if they did really want to use a broomstick?' What if, you know?"
Asked if she felt threatened or intimidated by the broomstick, Roberts tells Bradley, "Definitely. All of that. Not necessarily completely threatened that he might use that actual broomstick but threatened that if he would say that and I've only been on this dance floor for ten minutes, what's the next step? You know what I mean? What's next? What's the next thing they might say?"
At this point, Roberts says they stopped dancing.
After that, David Evans says that his teammates, who had paid the women $800 for a two-hour performance, felt cheated.
"When they stopped, a lot of, there was a lot of confusion in the room, you know. Guys thought that we might have been hustled when they said they were leaving. We paid $800 and they were there for five minutes. And, naturally guys got upset," he says.
A photograph shows the dancers leaving the living room at 12:04 a.m. Shortly after, they locked themselves in the bathroom. The players began to argue with them through the door, insisting that they come out and continue dancing.
"We were pretty much crouched behind the door. And the boys are knockin'. The boys are knockin'. The boys are knockin' and she is worked at this point, too. She's yellin' and screamin', 'Just leave us alone. Just leave us alone, leave us alone.' So I didn't really know what to do. It wasn't you, know, cajoling or it wasn't sweet. It was they were coaxing us but in their own boyish, rude way," Roberts explains.
She says she then walked out of the house, went to her car and left "Precious" alone inside the house for about five to 10 minutes – the first of two times Roberts says the dancers had been separated all night. Could a rape have occurred during that time? If so, Roberts says she saw no sign of it when "Precious" joined her in her car.
"At that point, did she give you any reason to believe that she had been assaulted in any way?" Bradley asks.
"No," Roberts replies.
"Did she at any point that night say anything about being in pain or of having been hurt in any way?" Bradley asks.
"She wasn't – she obviously wasn't hurt or, 'cause she was fine. She wouldn't have went back in the house if she was hurt. She's was fine," Roberts says.
"And, according to the statement that you made to the police, she told you she wanted to go back inside the house at that point. What did she say?" Bradley asks.
"There's more money to be made," Roberts tells Bradley.
Roberts and "Precious" did in fact go back inside the house. Kim says they were separated for a second time for about five to 10 minutes.
But here is where their stories take a dramatically different turn: "Precious" says in her written statement to police that Roberts, who as you may recall went by the stage name "Nikki," was actually present when "Precious" says she was attacked by three men who called themselves Brett, Adam and Matt. When Bradley asked Roberts about this in the interview, she seemed surprised and confused that "Precious" would make such an assertion.
"In the police statement she describes the rape in this way. 'Three guys – three guys grabbed Nicky,' that's you. 'Brett, Adam, and Matt grabbed me. They separated us at the master bedroom door while we tried to hold on to each other. Brett, Adam, and Matt took me into the bathroom.' Were you holding on to each other? Were you pulled apart? Is that true?" Bradley asks Roberts.
"Nope," she replies.
"Yeah. Her statement continues. 'I heard Nicky on the other side of the door. And when Adam opened the door she rushed in and helped Adam to get me dressed.' so she's saying that you helped one of the rapists," Bradley says.
"She was never undressed as far as I remember. As far as I remember, she was never undressed," Roberts says.
And, Roberts insists, she never assisted anyone in a rape, nor did she ever offer to engage in sexual acts with "Precious" and one of the alleged rapists, which "Precious" alleges in a statement she made that night.
"And in her written statement 'Brett asked Nikki for a threesome with me' and she says you replied, quote, 'We need to stay and make more money,'" Bradley says.
"I just don't remember that conversation happening ever," Roberts says.
Asked if it could have happened, Roberts says, "No, I did not say those words."
"She goes on to say that when both of you went back in the house, she says, 'They were excited and angry. They were screaming, 'We're going to f you black bitches,'" Bradley says.
"I just don't remember it that way at all," Roberts says.
Those are not the only questionable statements "Precious" has made in this case. She has given different accounts about the number of men who raped her, saying at one point that night it was "five guys," "three men," and at one point, she said "no one had forced her to have sex."
A photograph, taken at 12:31 a.m., shows "Precious" standing outside the back door of the house. The team captains told police she was pounding at the door around that time, but they wouldn't let her in. Seven minutes later, at 12:38 a.m., she was lying face down on the porch, apparently passed out. At 12:41 am, she was being helped to Roberts' car by some of the players and the night appeared to be coming to an end.
At that point, Roberts says "Precious" was "out of it."
Asked if "Precious" was conscious at that point, Roberts says, "I don't know. I'd say she was semi-conscious because she was helping them along in the walking process to get to the car."
As Roberts prepared to drive away with "Precious," she described one ugly final encounter with a lacrosse player who made a rude comment about Roberts' appearance.
Asked how she responded, Roberts says, "I don't know if I can say that on 60 Minutes.
"I called him a little [expletive] white boy," she recalls laughing. "And how he couldn't get it on his own and had to pay for it. So, he was mad. And it ended with him callin' me the n-word. And it echoed, so you heard n….. once, and then you heard, n….., n….., n….. .
Roberts acknowledges that her taunting provoked that remark but tells Bradley, "But when I think about it again, I say he could've said black girl. You know what I mean? He could've said black girl. He didn't have to go that route."
A neighbor also told police he overheard a player yelling in Roberts' direction "Thank your grandfather for my cotton shirt."
Roberts says the three indicted players never used racial epithets. The three players fear they will be punished unfairly for the sins of some of their teammates.
"If that comment was said, it's disgusting. And there's no way I can defend that. You know, that's a horrible thing for anyone to say. It's just, I couldn't even imagine saying it and, I'm not gonna be accountable for, you know, another person's, you know, unbelievably horrible remarks. I won't. I won't, you know, accept responsibility for that, 'cause I would never do it myself," Seligmann says.
Seligmann says he also won't accept responsibility for a rape he didn't commit. And he says he can prove it.
Faced with a claim from a black woman that she had been brutally attacked and sexually assaulted at a party of white Duke lacrosse players, the Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, in the midst of a tough election campaign, aggressively moved to build his case. Evidence was collected, there were tests and photo lineups and three players who were at the party were indicted. Many people at Duke, in Durham and around the country were quick to judge the players, believing that the team was covering up a crime.
But based on 60 Minutes' six-month review of the case file, it appears that standard police procedures were violated and evidence disregarded – evidence that may have pointed toward the players' innocence.
From the beginning, David Evans says he did everything he could to cooperate with authorities – starting soon after the party when Durham police turned up at his house with a search warrant and rousted him from his sleep.
"It was scary. I woke up from a nap to ten police officers in my living room with a search warrant," he recalls. "As they read the search warrant I went through every part of it – told 'em where they could find things and that we'd fully cooperate and answer any questions they had."
Asked what he thought would happen next, Evans says, "I'd done everything that I thought I could do. I put my faith in the legal system and told them what happened. I gave my statement. I offered to take a polygraph, I gave my DNA over. I don't know what else I could do."
Still, investigators believed the entire lacrosse team had something to hide. So, the district attorney's office asked a judge to order all 46 white players to provide their DNA – there was one black player on the team. Prosecutors promised it would "immediately rule out any innocent persons and show conclusive evidence as to who the suspects" were.
Collin Finnerty says the players were happy to oblige and says they weren't nervous.
"I mean, we were kinda, I mean, shocked by the fact that we – that we had to actually go to a police station to give DNA. But everyone – we were told it would help to clear everything up. So we were happy to go," Finnerty explains.
They were even happier when the results came back: there was no match. No DNA from any member of the lacrosse team was found on or inside the accuser or on her clothing. Reade Seligmann thought the case would now be closed, but he was wrong.
"It's so frustrating because that was an opportunity for us to exonerate ourselves, and we were told that," he says. "We trusted that you know if we cooperated, we would, you know, those that were innocent would be shown to be innocent. And that's just, it didn't play out that way."
District Attorney Mike Nifong, who had declared that DNA would be the crux of his case, played down the results, speculating that the absence of DNA meant that the attackers may have used condoms, although the accuser had already stated that there were "no condoms used", and that at least one of her three attackers had ejaculated inside her. Although it was a major setback for his case, the D.A. said he was undeterred.
"For most of the years I've been doing this we didn't have DNA. We had to deal with sexual assault cases the good old-fashioned way – witnesses got on the stand and told what happened to them," Nifong stated.
Without the DNA evidence he had hoped for, the D.A. needed the accuser to identify the three men who had raped her. Days after the party, she was shown photo lineups of 36 lacrosse players and didn't pick out anyone as her attacker. In fact, she didn't recognize David Evans at all, and was fairly certain only that she had seen Reade Seligmann somewhere at the party. So, two weeks later, the D.A. supervised another line-up, this one showing mugshots of all 46 white players on the team.
"It felt like Russian roulette," Seligmann recalls. "It could have been any single one of us. Kids were even calculating their chances of what the percentage was that you would get picked."
This time, Seligmann did get picked. The accuser said she was 100 percent sure he looked like the person who had forced her to perform oral sex. But Seligmann says that's impossible, and that he has hard evidence to prove it. Cell phone records show that right after the accuser stopped dancing at the party, Seligmann made nine separate calls over the next nine minutes. The last call was to a taxi company, which picked him up a few minutes later.
Asked why he left when he did, Seligmann says, "I didn't like the tone of the party, and I just, it made me uncomfortable. It's as simple as that. I thought it was a boring party and I didn't like the tone."
A few minutes later, he was captured on a bank security camera withdrawing cash from an ATM. The taxi driver says they then stopped off at a take-out restaurant, and by 12:46 a.m., Reade Seligmann was back in his dorm.
Seligmann says based on that evidence, it couldn't have been him. "It's impossible. It's impossible for it to have happened," he tells Bradley.
Seligmann says his lawyer offered to present proof of his whereabouts to authorities, but said they didn't want to hear it.
He says he never once talked to the police about the night. Seligmann says he was never interviewed by police or anyone from the district attorney's office about what happened that night.
The accuser also identified Collin Finnerty in the final photo lineup, saying he raped and sodomized her. Finnerty says he wasn't there when a rape could have happened, and says he will wait until trial to provide specific documentation that he also left the party early.
Asked when he left the party, Finnerty tells Bradley, "I left soon after I saw them do their act in the room with everybody else. I saw them leave the room. I never saw them again in my life."
As for David Evans, when the accuser saw his photograph for a third time, having been unable to recognize him before, she said she was 90 percent sure Evans had raped her – but, she added, the man who raped her had a mustache.
But Evans maintains he did not have a mustache that night. "Absolutely not. And, I tried to provide the district attorney with photographs showing that I didn't, and he refused to view them," he says.
Still, the players were indicted, based largely on the results from that final photo line-up. How did that happen?
60 Minutes asked James Coleman, a prominent law professor at Duke University Law School who helped establish guidelines in North Carolina designed to protect against false identifications in police line-ups. He says this line-up broke one basic principle: there were no "filler" photos, no pictures of people not connected to the case. The accuser only saw photos of lacrosse players who police told her were at the party.
"If she's told all of these people who were considered suspects were at the party, so you pick three and we'll indict those three," Coleman says.
"So she can't make a mistake," Bradley remarks.
"Can't make a mistake," Coleman replies.
Professor Coleman says the line-up ordered by the D.A. for the Duke lacrosse case violated local, state and federal guidelines. The D.A. has been quoted as saying that will be up to a judge to decide.
Asked why a district attorney would order a line-up that breaks virtually every rule in the book, Coleman says, "Well that's a good question for the D.A. But I assume that, you know after his initial performance, in this case, he needed to indict at least three players. And charge them with what he said was a rape that had occurred."
So, what is the evidence that suggests a rape did occur? The district attorney, Mike Nifong, who has repeatedly declined 60 Minutes' requests for an interview, told a local reporter the evidence could be found in the medical reports.
"My reading from the emergency room nurse would indicate that some sort of sexual assault did in fact take place," he said.
A nurse who examined the accuser that night reported she was crying, complained of tenderness on her body and in her vagina, and said she also appeared emotionally traumatized. That, the D.A. has suggested, could account for the inconsistent stories she has told about that night. The nurse's report found "diffuse edema" – or swelling – "of the vaginal walls" – which can be consistent with consensual sex, which she had recently had with her boyfriend. The only "signs of physical trauma" seen on the accuser were three small cuts on her right knee and heel, which as seen in a photograph taken at the party, she appeared to already have before she says she was raped.
Plastic fingernails the accuser was wearing that night were found in the trashcan of the bathroom where she says the rape occurred. DNA that could belong to David Evans – but is not an exact match – was found on those nails. Not a surprise, says Evans, because the trashcan was in his bathroom and was filled with tissues and other items containing his DNA.
In the days and weeks after the attack the accuser went back to the hospital complaining of neck, back and knee pain she claimed was caused by the rape. 60 Minutes obtained a video of her dancing at a strip club two weeks after the alleged attack. The club manager told 60 Minutes that she had consistently performed her routine normally.
The rape allegations still hang heavily over Duke University where, for the past seven months, its new President Richard Brodhead has been trying to heal divisions on campus and in the community. Every move he has made has been scrutinized, including his decision early on to cancel the lacrosse season and fire the coach. He's also been criticized for not doing enough in the face of protests from students and faculty who presumed the lacrosse team to be guilty.
"From our point of view, this was an evening of highly unacceptable behavior whether or not the rape took place," says Brodhead.
"Were you at all concerned that your students and some members of your faculty were engaged in a rush to judgment? And that their actions might actually throw fuel on the fire?" Bradley asks.
"We had public officials speaking as if it was almost a certainty that this thing had happened," Brodhead replies. "These charges engaged people's deepest fears, deepest anxieties, and dreads."
Brodhead formed a commission to investigate the behavior of the lacrosse team over the past five years, and he appointed Professor James Coleman to head it.
Coleman found that while many of the players drank alcohol excessively, they had no history of violent or racist behavior. Professor Coleman believes that the three indicted players are victims in this case – victims of an overzealous prosecutor who pandered to the black community in the middle of an election campaign.
"I think that he pandered to the community by saying 'I'm gonna go out there and defend your interests in seeing that these hooligans who committed the crime are prosecuted. I'm not gonna let their fathers, with all of their money, buy you know big-time lawyers and get them off. I'm doing this for you.' You know, what are you to conclude about a prosecutor who says to you, 'I'll do whatever it takes to get this set of defendants?' What does it say about what he's willing to do to get poor black defendants," Coleman asks.
Asked if he thinks the D.A. committed prosecutorial misconduct, Coleman says, "Yes, I mean I think that's the whole point. And if this case resulted in a conviction, I think there would be a basis to have the conviction overturned based on his conduct. I think in this case, it appears that this prosecutor has set out to develop whatever evidence he could to convict people he already concluded were guilty."
Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans are expected to go on trial next spring. In declaring his innocence, Evans also told us he is haunted by his decision to host a party with alcohol and strippers.
"I was naïve, I was young, I was sheltered. And I made a terrible judgment," Evans says. "In five months I've learned more than I did in 22 years about life."
"It's changed my life forever, no matter what happens from here on out. It's probably gonna be something that defines me my whole life," Finnerty tells Bradley.
"You ever look back on that night and think 'Maybe I should have done something differently?'" Bradley asks Seligmann.
"No," he replies. "Not go to the party? I did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong."
Produced By Michael Radutzky and Tanya Simon
for more features.