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Duke's President Needs To Explain Himself

By John Hammer

Where are the apologies? It appears that despite the recent arrests, Duke President Richard Brodhead owes the lacrosse team, Duke students and the Duke community an apology. He also owes the lacrosse team members something for canceling their season. The lacrosse team should not have had a party with underage drinking, but if Brodhead's plan is to cancel the season of every team at Duke where students participate in underage drinking, even the debate team is going to be disbanded and the sailing club will have to turn in their boats. The students shouldn't hire strippers for parties where there is underage drinking, and if Brodhead decides that is the standard, then maybe the debate team and the swimming team will be allowed to participate next year, but I would bet pretty heavily that there will be no football season. And it would not shock me to find that a basketball player has at some point in his college life attended a party with a stripper.

Brodhead needs to explain himself and his actions. It certainly appears that it turned out he was wrong. Brodhead should have believed his students. So far, the evidence is that the 47 members of the lacrosse team were right. They said that there was no rape and no sexual contact of any kind, and the evidence is bearing them out.

One North Carolina Central University student, who has been employed by an escort service to help pay for school, told a wildly unbelievable story of being held against her will, choked, raped and sodomized by three lacrosse players in a bathroom while the party was going on. People have questioned why, in my previous column, I called her a prostitute. Most men who pick up a streetwalker are interested in paying for sex. Most men who call an escort service are also interested in paying for sex. It isn't 100 percent in either case, but the vast majority of the time when men call an escort service, they are interested in paying for sex. An escort service is just a fancy name for a pimp, and the girls who work for escort services are prostitutes. This woman who claimed she was raped worked for an escort service and therefore was a prostitute.

The police tested all of the white players on the lacrosse team and had been told by the accuser that the young men who raped her were white members of the lacrosse team. The police also believe that only members of the lacrosse team were at the party. The tests found no DNA evidence. If the woman had been choked and fought with her rapists as she said she did, there would have been some DNA evidence. She reportedly said that she scratched her assailants and that is how she lost her fake fingernails. But there was no matching DNA evidence under her fingernails, on her skin, on her clothes, on her phone - the lab couldn't find a match anywhere; nor was there any evidence that a condom had been used.

At this point, it appears that the prostitute/stripper lied.

The question that the Duke University Board of Trustees needs to ask is do they want to continue to have a president who takes the word of a prostitute over the word of a Duke athletic team? Do they want a president who assumes that Duke students are criminals, just because they are athletes who get together and party?

At Duke, for at least the past 40 years and probably longer, there has been a strong contingent that doesn't think Duke should be involved in conference athletics at all. This group is embarrassed by having the focus taken off academics and placed on athletics. When Duke wins a national championship, they cringe. They are always there ready to jump on the bandwagon with anyone who is critical of athletics. It may be that this group got Brodhead's ear.

Perhaps Brodhead hasn't been around long enough to know that despite the fact that Duke is Durham's largest employer, the university has never gotten along well with the town and there are always those in town ready to demonstrate for anything that is against Duke.

Brodhead may not have known that he was throwing gasoline on a fire when he got involved, but he was. It's one thing for a student/prostitute/stripper to accuse a group of men, who have hired her to dance around naked, of rape; but when the president of Duke University backs her up, that lends a tremendous amount of credibility to the story. Why would the president of Duke cancel the season of a nationally ranked athletic team, including 44 students who were accused of nothing other than behaving like a lot of other college students, if he didn't have some strong evidence that the rape had taken place? A lot of people just assumed that Brodhead knew something the rest of us didn't.

It certainly appears that Brodhead believes that Duke lacrosse players, and perhaps all male athletes, are liars, and some of them are rapists. The story that the accuser told was not very believable. The timeline and the mechanics just don't work, and as more evidence is revealed the story becomes more and more difficult to defend.

The photos, according to the testimony of the attorneys who have seen all of them, are good evidence that nothing violent happened at the party. The attorneys say that the photos show the dancer with bruises and scratches when she arrived at the party in a negligee. They also show her just before she left in the same negligee, which did not appear to be damaged in any way. Her story just doesn't fit with the physical evidence that has been revealed at this point.

Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong is running for reelection in a city with a large black population. You can bet that Nifong knows exactly how many Duke students are registered to vote in Durham, and it isn't many. He has less than two weeks to go before the election and, from a political standpoint, if he had said that the Duke students were innocent, he was going to suffer a backlash without time to recover. It appeared all he had to do was drag this affair out until after the May 2 election and then he could step back and look at it objectively.

Nifong evidently decided that waiting it out wasn't good enough and had two students indicted by the grand jury. It turns out he made a bad choice when picking the two students to indict because one of them has receipts, cell phone records and the eyewitness testimony of a cab driver that proves he was not at the house when the rape was supposed to have occurred. But even without the alibi, the arrests don't make sense except from a political standpoint. The accuser couldn't identify the rapists, which is why every white member of the lacrosse team had to give a DNA sample. Then when the DNA tests came back with no matches, the witness suddenly regained her memory and weeks after the event could positively identify her attackers. It is a story that only makes sense when you take into consideration the fact that Nifong is running for election.

Brodhead is not running for reelection, but in the opinion of this alumnus, he should be packing his bags soon. If no one is convicted, and it certainly appears that no one will be, then he is going to have to face a bunch of very rich, very angry parents.

A group of parents and alumni have already hired attorney Bob Bennett to deal with the situation, and people don't hire an attorney with that much firepower unless they are serious. I would imagine that some lawsuits will follow. The parents of members of the lacrosse team who had their season and their shot at a national championship cancelled because the president of Duke believed a prostitute over the testimony of his own students would seem to have a reasonable suit. How much is an NCAA national championship worth in dollars and cents? The few people I know who have been involved in a national championship team wouldn't trade the experience for any amount of money. Would Duke have won? We'll never know, but I bet Bennett and other attorneys will be able to make a strong case that they were on their way.

John Hammer is the editor of the Rhinoceros Times.

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