The Duke Liar

The now-infamous 2006 Duke lacrosse team stripper rape hoax was certainly a most extreme example of the now-common “liberal” and feminist knee-jerk over-reaction to college sexual assault claims, magnified horribly by the inquisition-like prosecution (which led to the disbarring of the prosecutor for professional malfeasance). But it never-the-less contains elements which are common to many of the most prominent (and likely some of the lesser known) cases of campus sexual assault allegations – not least being the recent University of Virginia gang rape hoax and the Columbia University “Carry That Weight” art project.

The common elements include

  • the immediate assumption that the accuser is telling the truth and deserves uncritical support rather than questioning to ascertain the validity of the accusation
  • the perception that the accuser (“the victim”) is representative of an oppressed or disempowered group that deserves special consideration
  • the perception that the accused (“the perpetrator/s”) is/are representative of a privileged class that is unfairly protected by institutional prejudice (i.e. “Patriarchy”)
  • the perception that any investigation and/or adjudication process is likely to be biased toward the accused and against the accuser
  • the belief that the potential consequences to the accused of a false accusation are far outweighed by the consequences to the “victim”, and that a false allegation can be a good learning experience for the accused
  • the belief that, when gender, race or class are involved, the “crime” is more worthy of attention and can be used to further the narrative of structural discrimination (such as a “rape culture”)

The Duke saga made it abundantly clear that feminist orthodoxy on rape is radically hostile to basic principles of justice. Former sex crimes prosecutor and law professor Wendy Murphy, who emerged as a leading TV commentator on the case with frequent appearances on CNN, Fox News, and other channels, repeatedly referred to the accused men as “rapists” on the air. On one occasion, she fumed: “I’m really tired of people suggesting that you’re somehow un-American if you don’t respect the presumption of innocence, because you know what that sounds like to a victim? Presumption you’re a liar.”

The Duke Lacrosse Rape Hoax

Crystal Gail Mangum, an African-American student at North Carolina Central University who worked as a stripper, dancer and escort, falsely accused three white students, members of the Duke Blue Devils men’s lacrosse team, of raping her at a party held at the house of two of the team’s captains in Durham, North Carolina, on March 13, 2006. Many people involved in, or commenting on the case, including prosecutor Michael “Mike” Nifong, either called the alleged assault a hate crime or suggested it might be one, focusing on both gender and race as core elements of the “crime”.

Blue Devils

In response to the allegations, Duke University suspended the lacrosse team for two games on March 28, 2006. On April 5, 2006, Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler was forced to resign under threat by athletic director Joe Alleva (after receiving threatening e-mails and phone calls and frequent vandalism of his property), and Duke President Richard Brodhead canceled the remainder of the 2006 season.

Mobs protested outside the house that had been the site of the party, banging pots and pans at early hours of the morning. Photographs of lacrosse team members were posted prominently around Durham and on the Duke University campus, implicating the whole team in a cover-up.

Please Come Forward

The allegations inflamed already strained relations between Duke University and its host city of Durham, with members of the Duke lacrosse team being vilified in the press and defamed on and off campus. On May 1, 2006, the New Black Panthers held a protest outside Duke University.


The case drew national attention and highlighted racial tensions within the Durham area. Jesse Jackson promised the Rainbow/Push Coalition would pay the college tuition for Mangum, regardless of whether Mangum fabricated her story.

More than a year after the incident, on April 11, 2007, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped all charges and declared the three players innocent. Cooper stated that the charged players – David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann  – were victims of a “tragic rush to accuse”.

Duke Lacrosse Suspects Cleared

Duke Lacrosse Suspects Cleared

The initial prosecutor, Durham County, North Carolina District Attorney Michael Nifong, labeled a “rogue prosecutor” by Cooper, withdrew from the case in January 2007 after the North Carolina State Bar filed ethics charges against him. In June 2007, Nifong was disbarred for “dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation”, making him the first prosecutor in North Carolina disbarred for trial conduct. Nifong served one day in jail for lying about sharing DNA tests (criminal contempt). Crystal Mangum faced no charges for her false accusations as Cooper, who had taken over responsibility for the case, declined to prosecute her.

Mike Nifong

Mike Nifong

On September 7, 2007, it was reported that the ex-players planned to file a lawsuit for violations of their civil rights against the city of Durham, and several city employees, unless the city agreed to a settlement including payment of $30 million over five years and the passage of new criminal justice reform laws.

On September 29, 2007, Duke President Brodhead, speaking at a two-day conference at Duke Law School on the practice and ethics of trying cases in the media, apologized for “causing the families [of the players] to feel abandoned when they most needed support”.

On July 12, 2010, Duke demolished the house at which the party took place after it had sat unoccupied for the four years following the Duke lacrosse case.


Events at the house

Crystal Gail Mangum had been working part-time for about two months as a stripper. Mangum’s claims that she had only recently taken up this line of work were later proven to be untrue, as she was working at strip clubs at least as far back as 2002 when she was arrested for stealing a taxi and trying to run over a police officer after having given a lap dance to a customer. Before arriving at the party that day, she had, by her own admission, consumed alcohol and Flexeril, a prescription muscle relaxant (it was later confirmed by the Attorney General’s office that Mangum has taken Ambien, methadone, Paxil and amitriptyline, although when she began taking these medications is uncertain, and that she suffers from bipolar disorder). Mangum’s fellow stripper that day, Kim Roberts, arrived separately.

According to statements provided to police, on March 13, 2006, a party was held at the off campus residence of the captains of the Duke lacrosse team, a house that Duke University owned. The players were consuming alcohol at the party, which was intended as compensation for the team’s having to remain on campus to train and miss Spring Break. Several of the players were unaware that there were to be strippers until they arrived and were asked to contribute to their fees.

The players had requested two white strippers, but the women who arrived, Mangum and Roberts, were respectively black and half-black/half-Asian. One player asked if the dancers had any sex toys, and Roberts responded by asking if the player’s penis was too small, according to the team captains. The player then brandished a broomstick and suggested that she “use this”. This exchange of words abruptly stopped the performance, and both strippers went inside the home’s bathroom. While the women were still in the bathroom, Seligmann and Finnerty left the house. The women came out, and Mangum roamed around the yard half-dressed and shouting.

Shortly before 1 AM, Mangum and Roberts entered Roberts’ vehicle. Roberts yelled at the partygoers “Short dick white boys”, and “how he couldn’t get it on his own and had to pay for it”, to which one player yelled “We asked for whites, not niggers.” Mangum and Roberts departed in Roberts’ car.

Roberts then called 911 and said white men who came out of 610 N. Buchanan yelled “nigger” at her. Defense attorneys questioned inconsistencies in this statement – Roberts first said she was driving, and later said she was walking when the slur was yelled.


Events after Departure – Claim of Rape

As Roberts drove away with Mangum, the two women began to argue. Roberts pulled over and attempted to push Mangum out. When that failed, Roberts drove Mangum to a nearby supermarket, went inside, and told a female security guard that a woman was refusing to leave her car. The guard walked to the car and asked Mangum to leave, but Mangum refused. The guard said that she did not smell alcohol on Mangum’s breath, but thought she might have been under the influence of other drugs. At 1:22 AM, the guard called 911 to report that Mangum refused to leave the car. Police then arrived, tried to remove Mangum from the car, and questioned her. Responding police recognized Mangum, clearly having interacted with her before, and knew her name, home address, and that she had likely left two children at home alone, before she had said a word. They asked for other officers to check up on her children.

The police took Mangum to the Durham Access Center, a mental-health and substance-abuse facility, for involuntary commitment. During the admission process, she claimed that she had been raped prior to her arrival.

Mangum was transferred to Duke University Medical Center. Examination of her skin, arms, and legs, revealed no swelling, no abnormalities, and three small cuts on her right knee and right heel. When asked, she specifically and repeatedly denied receiving any physical blows by hands. Further examination showed no tenderness in the back, chest, and neck.

There was diffuse swelling of the vagina, but investigators did not note any other injuries in the rest of the report. Mangum later claimed that she had performed using a vibrator for a couple in a hotel room shortly before the lacrosse-team party. This activity, or a yeast infection, might account for the swelling.


Investigation and prosecution

DNA tests

Shortly after the party, the prosecution ordered 46 of the 47 team members to provide DNA samples (the only black member of the team was exempt since Mangum had stated that her attackers were white), though some members had been absent from the party. The players gave cheek swabs and statements to the police the day after the party. They also offered to take polygraph tests, but the police turned them down. On April 10, 2006, it was revealed that DNA testing had failed to connect any of the 46 tested members of the Duke University men’s lacrosse team.

After the initial rounds of testing by the state crime lab, the district attorney sought the services of a private laboratory (DNA Security of Burlington) to conduct additional tests. DNA from multiple males was found inside Mangum and upon the rape kit items that had been tested, but none matched any of the lacrosse players. Mike Nifong falsely represented to the public and to the court that DNA had only been found from a single male source, her boyfriend.

DNA taken from all surfaces of three false fingernails belonging to Mangum which were retrieved from the trash in the bathroom (widely but falsely reported as DNA taken only from the underside of a single fingernail) showed some characteristics similar to David Evans’ DNA, according to the private laboratory, but the match was not conclusive. Defense attorneys suggested that any DNA present may have come from the tissue paper, cotton swabs, or other hygiene-related trash that had been in the garbage can along with the fingernail, since David Evans had lived in the house. This was confirmed later by Attorney General Cooper’s investigation.

Nifong claimed that the lack of DNA is not unusual and that 75%–80% of all sexual assault cases lack DNA evidence. Rape victims often delay reporting by days or weeks, inadvertently destroying DNA evidence. In this case, Mangum had a rape-kit exam administered only hours after the end of the party, and the absence of DNA is considered unlikely by many legal experts.

During Nifong’s ethics trial on June 14, 2007, it was revealed that the lab had discovered at least two unidentified males’ DNA in Mangum’s pubic region; at least two unidentified males’ DNA in her rectum; at least four to five unidentified males’ DNA on her underpants; and at least one identified male’s DNA in her vagina.


Arrests and Investigation

On April 10, 2006, defense attorneys stated that time-stamped photographs existed which showed the dancer was already injured when she arrived and very impaired.

On April 18, 2006, two members of the lacrosse team, Collin Finnerty (19) and Reade Seligmann (20) were arrested and indicted on charges of first degree forcible rape, first degree sexual offense and kidnapping.

On May 15, 2006, a third Duke lacrosse team player, former team captain and 2006 Duke graduate David Evans, was indicted on charges of first-degree forcible rape, sexual offense and kidnapping.

On June 8, 2006, court documents revealed that Roberts, in her initial statement, had said she was with Mangum the entire evening except for a period of less than five minutes. Additionally, after hearing Mangum saying she was sexually assaulted, she was incredulous.

On December 22, 2006, District Attorney Mike Nifong dropped the rape charges against all three lacrosse players, but maintained the kidnapping and sexual offense charges against all three. On December 28, 2006, the North Carolina bar filed ethics charges against Nifong over his conduct in the case, accusing him of making public statements that were prejudicial to the administration of justice and of engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, listing more than 100 examples of statements he made to the media.

On January 12, 2007, Nifong sent a letter to North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper asking to be taken off the case. The following day, Cooper announced that his office would take over the case. On January 24, 2007, the North Carolina State Bar filed a second round of ethics charges against Nifong for a systematic abuse of prosecutorial discretion that was prejudicial to the administration of justice when he withheld DNA evidence to mislead the court.


On April 11, 2007, the Attorney General’s office announced that it had dismissed all charges against the three lacrosse players. Cooper not only dismissed the charges but also took the unusual step of declaring the accused players innocent. Cooper also announced that Mangum would not be prosecuted, stating that investigators and attorneys who had interviewed her thought “she may actually believe the many different stories that she has been telling” and “it’s in the best interest of justice not to bring charges”.


Discrepancies in Magnum’s Story

  • Durham police said that Mangum kept changing her story and was not credible, reporting that she initially told them she was raped by 20 white men, later reducing the number to only three.
  • Another police report states that Mangum initially claimed she was only groped, rather than raped, but changed her story before going to the hospital.
  • The second stripper who performed at the house, Kim Roberts, said that Mangum was not raped. She stated that Mangum was not obviously hurt. Likewise, she refuted other aspects of Mangum’s story including denying that she helped dress Mangum after the party and saying that they were not forcefully separated by players as Mangum had reported.
  • Mangum did not consistently choose the same three defendants in the photo lineups, and the only individual she identified as being at the party with 100% certainty provided to police investigators indisputable evidence that he was not present at the party.
  • Magnun repeatedly changed the timing of the events at the party, which conflicted with exculpatory evidence.
  • Mangum changed her story in regards to which person performed which sex acts.
  • In one account, she claimed she was suspended in mid-air and was being assaulted by all three of them in the bathroom. According to a 60 Minutes investigation, Mangum gave at least a dozen different stories.
  • In its own investigation, The News & Observer, North Carolina’s second largest newspaper, determined that Mangum gave at least five different versions of the incident to police and medical interviewers by August 2006.


Poor Police Procedure

During the photo identifications, Mangum was told that she would be viewing Duke University lacrosse players who attended the party, and was asked if she remembered seeing them at the party and in what capacity. Defense attorneys claimed this was essentially a “multiple-choice test in which there were no wrong answers”, while Duke law professor James Earl Coleman, Jr. posits that “the officer was telling the witness that all are suspects, and saying, in effect, ‘Pick three’,”

US Department of Justice guidelines suggest including at least five non-suspect filler photos for each suspect included, as did the Durham Police Department’s own General Order 4077, adopted in February 2006.


Accusations of Witness Intimidation

Defense lawyers suggested police used intimidation tactics on witnesses. On May 11, Moezeldin Elmostafa, an immigrant taxi driver who signed a sworn statement about Seligmann’s whereabouts that defense lawyers say provides a solid alibi, was arrested on a 2½-year-old shoplifting charge. Arresting officers first asked if he had anything new to say about the lacrosse case. When he refused to alter his testimony, he was taken into custody. An arrest and conviction would have destroyed his chance for citizenship and could have led to his deportation. Elmostafa was subsequently tried on the shoplifting charge and acquitted, after a grainy security tape proved that a security guard who was the prosecution’s chief witness had “misremembered” events.


Targeting Duke Students

The News & Observer suggested that the supervisor of the lacrosse investigation, Sgt. Mark Gottlieb, had made a disproportionate number of arrests of Duke students for misdemeanor violations, such as carrying an open container of alcohol. Normally, these violations earn offenders a pink ticket similar to a traffic ticket. From May 2005 to February 2006, when Sgt. Gottlieb was a patrol officer in District 2, he made 28 total arrests; 20 of those arrests were Duke students, and at least 15 were handcuffed and taken to jail. This is in stark contrast to the other two officers on duty in the same district during that same 10-month period, who made 64 total arrests, only two of which were Duke students.

Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle, described other examples of violence and dishonesty from Sgt. Gottlieb, including a 3 AM raid with nine other officers on a party house while the students were half asleep, with one student dragged out of bed and down the stairs, and all seven housemates put in handcuffs, arrested, and taken into custody for violating a noise ordinance and open container of alcohol violations. Sgt. Gottlieb reportedly told one student, an American citizen of Serbian descent, that the student could be deported. Other stories included the throwing of a 130 pound male against his car for an open container of alcohol violation, refusing the ID of an international student, searching through a purse without a warrant, refusing to tell a student her rights, and accusations of perjury.

In early July 2014, Sgt. Mark Gottlieb committed suicide in Dekalb County, Georgia, where he had worked as a paramedic.



On September 7, 2007, it was reported that the ex-players planned to file a lawsuit for violations of their civil rights against the city of Durham, and several city employees, unless the city agreed to a settlement including payment of $30 million over five years and the passage of new criminal justice reform laws. The city’s liability insurance covers up to $5 million.

Durham declined the settlement offer and on October 5, 2007, Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann filed a federal lawsuit alleging a broad conspiracy to frame the players. Named in the suit were Nifong, the lab that handled the DNA work, the city of Durham, the city’s former police chief, the deputy police chief, the two police detectives who handled the case and five other police department employees. The players sought unspecified damages, and also wanted to place the Durham Police Department under court supervision for 10 years, claiming the actions of the police department pose “a substantial risk of irreparable injury to other persons in the City of Durham”. According to the suit, Nifong engineered the conspiracy to help him win support for his election bid. Nifong reportedly told his campaign manager that the case would provide “‘millions of dollars’ in free advertising”.

On January 15, 2008, the city of Durham filed a motion to remove itself as a defendant, arguing that it had no responsibility for Nifong’s actions. On the same day, Nifong filed for bankruptcy.

On May 27, 2008, Judge William L. Stocks ruled that the plaintiffs lawsuit could go forward.

On March 31, 2011, Judge James Beaty issued a ruling on the case, upholding claims against Nifong and his hired investigator for conspiracy to commit malicious prosecution in the course of their investigation; the city of Durham for negligence; Nifong and police investigators for malicious prosecution, concealment of evidence, and fabrication of false evidence. However, the players’ civil rights claims, which constituted the bulk of their complaint, were dismissed on the grounds that the applicable civil rights laws pertained only to persons of African-American descent.

On May 16, 2014, the three accused lacrosse players and the City of Durham settled their long-running lawsuit. Under terms of the settlement, Seligmann, Finnerty and Evans received no monetary compensation, and instead requested that the city give a $50,000 grant to the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission.

On February 21, 2008, the families of 38 of the lacrosse team’s 47 members who were not accused filed a 225-page lawsuit against Duke University, the Duke University Hospital, the city of Durham, and various officials of each organization for multiple claims of harassment, deprivation of civil rights, breach of contract and other claims.

The complaint set out a detailed view of the events leading up to the case, the university’s response, and the subsequent unraveling of the case; it alleged corruption and collusion between Duke, the hospital, and Nifong. It accused the University of refusing to enforce its own anti-discrimination policies as to faculty and student harassment of the lacrosse players, and of violating federal law when it issued team key-card access data to the Police without a warrant, and subsequently attempted to cover up the disclosure. The allegations also included the university’s instructions to the team members to not seek legal advice or contact their parents, to speak to a university-approved lawyer (who represented the university, not the team), and to waive their civil rights. Allegations against the hospital were directed at the examining nurse who allegedly fabricated statements concerning the initial medical examination, her supervisor (who adopted those statements even though they were contrary to the examination), and the failure of the Hospital to supervise these employees.

Allegations against the city and its police department were directed at the investigating officers and their attempts to fabricate a case and their attempt to hide DNA test results, along with failure to supervise these officers. The plaintiffs alleged emotional suffering, loss of job opportunities and other damages. The plaintiffs sought undisclosed damages as well as attorneys fees. Specific parties named in the lawsuit included, but weren’t limited to: former university spokesman John Burness, vice-president for student affairs Larry Moneta, dean Susan Wasiolek, president Richard H. Brodhead, provost Stephan Lange, former BOT chairman Robert K. Steel, and former SANE nurse-in-training Tara Levicy.

The lawsuit against the university was settled out of court in 2013. Neither side would discuss the details of the settlement.



Who is Crystal Gail Magnum?

While not the typical college rape accuser, who is usually of the same race and social class as the alleged perpetrator, neither was Magnum a typical disempowered stripper. At the time of the alleged rape, she was a college student studying – ironically – police psychology.

Crystal Gail Magnum

Crystal Gail Magnum

Crystal Gail Mangum was born on July 18, 1978 and grew up in Durham, North Carolina, the daughter of a truck driver, Travis Mangum, and his wife Mary. She was the youngest of three children.

In 1996 she filed a police report alleging that three years earlier, when she was 14, she had been kidnapped by three assailants, driven to Creedmoor, North Carolina, and raped. One of those she accused was her boyfriend, who was 21 at the time. Mangum’s father said he did not believe she was raped or injured, though her mother believed an incident could have occurred – but not in 1993. She thinks it is more likely to have happened when Crystal was 17 or 18 years old, shortly before she made the police report.

The officer who took her report at that time asked her to write a detailed timeline of the night’s events and bring the account back to the police, but she never returned and did not pursue the charges.

After graduation from high school in 1996, she joined the US Navy, and trained to operate radios and navigation technology. While serving in the navy, she married Kenneth Nathanial McNeill, but her marriage quickly broke down. She reported to police that her husband had threatened to kill her, but the charge was dismissed when she failed to appear in court. She served for less than two years in the Navy before being discharged from the service after becoming pregnant by a fellow sailor, with whom she went on to have another child.

By 2002 Mangum had returned to Durham and was working as an exotic dancer. In 2003, she was arrested on ten charges after stealing the taxicab of a customer to whom she had given a lap dance. This prompted a police pursuit at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour, occasionally in the wrong lane. After being stopped, she nearly ran over a police officer, succeeding only in hitting his patrol vehicle. She was found to have a blood alcohol content of just over twice the legal limit. Ultimately, she pleaded guilty on four counts: assault on a government official, larceny, speeding to elude arrest, and driving while impaired, serving three weekends in jail, paying $4,200 in restitution and fees, and being given two years probation.

In 2004 she gained an associate’s degree in police psychology from Durham Technical Community College, and subsequently enrolled full-time at North Carolina Central University to study the subject.

In 2008, Mangum published a memoir, The Last Dance for Grace: the Crystal Mangum Story, written with Vincent Clark. The book gives her version of events. She continues to insist that she was assaulted at the party and says that the dropping of the case was politically motivated. The book also outlines her earlier life, reasserting her claim that she was raped at the age of 14.


Arrests Since the Duke Lacrosse Hoax

Just before midnight on February 17, 2010, Durham police were called to Mangum’s residence by her nine-year-old daughter. When they arrived, they said they found Mangum and her then live-in boyfriend fighting. The police said she set fire to some of his clothing in a bathtub in their presence. The building suffered heavy smoke damage, and the police arrested Mangum on charges of attempted murder, first-degree arson, assault and battery, identity theft, communicating threats, damage to property, resisting an officer, and misdemeanor child abuse.

Mangum was ordered to remain in jail on $1 million bond,which was lowered to $100,000 in May, and she was released from jail to live in a friend’s house, though required to wear an electronic monitoring device. On July 12, 2010, she was released from house arrest and required to move in with her mother. She was allowed to visit her three children but only under supervision of social services. Mangum was arrested again on August 25, 2010, and held on $150,000 bond for failure to comply with the restrictions on her child visitation order.

On December 17, 2010, Mangum was convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, injury to personal property and resisting a public officer, and was sentenced to 88 days in jail, which she had already served, and the judge left the custody of her children in the hands of social services.


Mangum was arrested on April 2, 2011, following accusations that she repeatedly stabbed and seriously injured a second boyfriend, Reginald Daye. She was charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill or inflicting serious bodily injury. Ten days later, Daye died in the hospital, and Mangum was indicted on a murder charge.

Reginald Daye told an investigator, before he died, that he became angry at Mangum for disrespecting him by bringing other men to the apartment. He admitted Mangum was in the bathroom when he kicked in the door and that he grabbed her by the hair. He said as they continued to fight, Mangum tried to stab him several times before stabbing him in the side of the chest as he stood in the hallway.

Photos of the apartment showed kitchen steak knives scattered throughout the apartment. Blood drops were on the carpet in the hallway where Daye said she stabbed him, but not in the master bedroom where Mangum said the stabbing occurred.

At the trial, Mangum argued that she stabbed Daye in self-defense, as she was being assaulted by him. The prosecution argued that the forensic evidence supported Daye’s dying statement that he was attempting to get away from Mangum when he was stabbed. On November 22, 2013, Mangum was found guilty of second-degree murder, and the judge sentenced her to serve a minimum of 14 years, 2 months and a maximum of 18 years in prison.

The story of Daye’s killing was featured in an episode of Wives with Knives, which aired December 12, 2012, during its first season on Investigation Discovery. Mangum appeared in the episode, having given a jailhouse interview to the show’s producers in the summer of 2012.


Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case

Until Proven Innocent

In this American tragedy, Stuart Taylor, Jr., and KC Johnson argue, law enforcement, a campaigning prosecutor, biased journalists, and left-leaning academics repeatedly refused to pursue the truth while scapegoats were made of these young men, recklessly tarnishing their lives.

Taylor and Johnson take on the idiocies and dishonesty of right- and left-wingers alike, shedding new light on the danger of a cultural tendency toward media-fueled travesties of justice.

“Guilty until proven innocent was a concept expressed by Duke University’s president Richard Brodhead, among others, betraying a stunning misapprehension of America’s justice system in the case of the Duke lacrosse players wrongfully indicted for raping a black stripper in 2006. As well reported in detail by respected legal journalist Taylor and Brooklyn College historian Johnson, the facts of the case speak for themselves: rogue prosecutor Mike Nifong willfully disregarded evidence of the boys’ innocence; Duke administrators hung the team members out to dry; much of Duke’s faculty and the media rushed to assume guilt in the racially charged case (the New York Times comes in for special opprobrium). …the closing chapters offer balanced, tautly argued discussions of, and remedies for, the central problems: prosecutorial abuse, the frequency of false rape accusations and academic groupthink.” – Publishers Weekly

In their riveting narrative, Stuart Taylor Jr., one of America’s most insightful legal commentators (and a former reporter at The New York Times), and KC Johnson, a history professor at Brooklyn College and the City University of New York, portray Nifong as “evil or deluded or both”. They call him a “race-baiting demagogue” who tried to fan racial hatred against innocent white students (and lock them up for 30 years) in order to win black votes in his re-election campaign. Soon after an African-American stripper claimed she had been gang-raped at a Duke lacrosse party, the authors charge, Nifong should have known that the woman he called “my victim” was lying. She made the claim of rape only when threatened with confinement in a mental health center. She then recanted and re-recanted, offering a series of contradictory claims to having been raped by 20, five, four, three and two players, before finally settling on three, none of whom she could confidently identify. Her fellow stripper at the party called her story a “crock”. …

Nifong’s sins are now well known, but Taylor and Johnson argue that he was aided and abetted by the news media and the Duke faculty. They are withering about the “lynch mob mentality” (in the words of a defense lawyer) created by bloviating cable news pundits on the left and the right. But they are also sharply critical of what they call the one-sided reporting of the nation’s leading newspapers, including The New York Times…

At least “many of the journalists misled by Nifong eventually adjusted their views as evidence of innocence” came to light, the authors conclude. That’s more than can be said for Duke’s “activist professors”, 88 of whom signed an inflammatory letter encouraging a rush to judgment by the student protesters who were plastering the campus with wanted posters of the lacrosse team and waving a banner declaring “Castrate”. Even when confronted with DNA evidence of the players’ innocence, these professors refused to apologize and instead incoherently attacked their critics…

In their final chapters, the authors…believe that Brodhead was trying to avoid the fate of Lawrence Summers, deposed as president of Harvard for his incorrect views about gender equality, and that in the “alternative universe” of academia, no university president can challenge the conceits of political correctness that are corrupting our greatest campuses. … Taylor and Johnson have made a gripping contribution to the literature of the wrongly accused. They remind us of the importance of constitutional checks on prosecutorial abuse. And they emphasize the lesson that Duke callously advised its own students to ignore: if you’re unjustly suspected of any crime, immediately call the best lawyer you can afford.

– Jeffrey Rosen, law professor at George Washington University, NY Times book review


From Chapter One of Until Proven Innocent – Dreams of Glory:

The lacrosse players also symbolized Duke’s large investment of resources in having nationally competitive Division I athletic teams. This emphasis was rare among the nation’s top academic institutions. “We bond over athletics,” explained Seyward Darby, a nonathlete who was editor in chief of The Chronicle in 2005–2006. “It gives me a sense of pride in my university.” The policy also helped Duke attract some quality students who could have gone to Ivy League schools.

But the emphasis on sports gave many Duke professors a sense of shame about their university. Especially those who were still infected with Ivy League envy even after Duke had soared to the fifth ranking for overall quality in the US News & World Report annual college issue. These academics deeply resented what they perceived as Duke’s bending of admissions standards and use of scholarship funds to build a championship-caliber lacrosse team. That the lacrosse players by and large compiled academic records indistinguishable from a typical group of fifty Duke nonathletes passed without notice from faculty members who resented their status.

Bending admissions and hiring standards and targeting scholarship money to attract more black and Hispanic students and professors was one thing. The Ivies and all other major universities did that, too. And most academics support racial and ethnic diversity (although not intellectual diversity) with the fervor of religious believers.

Bending admissions standards to build a lacrosse team was something else, especially since most team members were the kind of prosperous white boys whom many professors considered overrepresented already.

On campus, this position was championed with particular ferocity by cultural anthropology professor Orin Starn, who wanted Duke to drop “to Division III in the longer term or even just have club sports teams. Students could just as well learn the lessons of leadership, competition, and teamwork competing at the Division III or club level.” Money now spent on athletics could then be transferred to “deserving African-American and other applicants from underrepresented groups to strengthen Duke diversity and excellence.” Leaving aside the probable unconstitutionality of race-based scholarships under recent Supreme Court precedents, neither Starn nor any of his faculty supporters ever supplied evidence that funding for athletics had taken away from Duke offering academic merit scholarships.

Other professors, meanwhile, objected to the idea of athletics – especially male athletics – altogether. They saw sports as reinforcing ideas such as competitiveness and merit-based success that are out of favor in the contemporary academy. “The ‘culture’ of sports seems for some a reasonable displacement for the cultures of moral conduct, ethical citizenship and personal integrity,” wrote Karla F. C. Holloway, a professor of English who would emerge as a vehement critic of the lacrosse players, in the journal Scholar and Feminist Online. Such attitudes, she hyperbolically claimed, reinforced “exactly those behaviors of entitlement which have been and can be so abusive to women and girls and those ‘othered’ by their sports’ history of membership.” Holloway cited no evidence for any of these crude, contempt-filled stereotypes of athletes.

Many professors and some students also harbored deep resentment of the affluent social class into which a majority of the lacrosse players were born. More than half of the players came from rich or near-rich families and had gone to northeastern prep schools where lacrosse is big. Many planned to make big bucks in fields like investment banking. Assisted by the influential lacrosse network, eight of the ten seniors on the 2005–2006 team planned to begin careers on Wall Street after graduating.

…Like Stanford, Duke wrote off football and focused instead on men’s and women’s basketball along with sports perceived as bastions of the upper class – such as golf, tennis, and lacrosse. To attract better athletes, the institution spent more on sports and athletics facilities. …

At the same time, more important, Duke sought to join the Ivies, Stanford, and MIT among the nation’s leading academic institutions. It chose to do so, however, on the cheap: bypassing the sciences (where the combination of salary and lab costs for a new hire ran around $400,000), the school focused on bringing in big-name humanities professors, for whom the only start-up cost was salary. Politically correct leftist professors were in vogue nationwide, and the leftward slant of Duke’s humanities and social sciences faculty accelerated in 1995, when President Nannerl Overholser “Nan” Keohane named History professor William Chafe as her new dean of faculty. As he explained in a 2002 “State of Arts and Sciences Address,” Chafe focused on using new faculty hires to eliminate the “tendency to think of Duke as a place of wealth, whiteness and privilege”. Diversity, rather than traditional conceptions of academic excellence, would be the prime criterion in choosing new professors for Duke. …

Duke had never had this level of leftist slant before. … Many could care less about college athletics and some were openly dismissive. They were different. They tended to be urban. They tended to be Eastern. They tended to fit into the culture of the South and Durham poorly. Duke was an oasis for them.” Coupled with Chafe’s emphasis on far-left diversity hires, by early 2006 Duke’s faculty had grown well out of step with mainstream student opinion.

Meanwhile, the men’s lacrosse team was seen as symbolic of a way of life despised by many left-leaning Duke professors and administrators and a much smaller group of students. This resentment was fed by the preexisting stereotype – up and down the East Coast – of lacrosse players as a privileged, conceited, drunken, boorish, even thuggish mix of rich-kid entitlement and big-jock swagger.

This stereotype was to pervade the media coverage once gang-rape charges placed the Duke team in the spotlight. Explained Newsweek: “Strutting lacrosse players are a distinctive and familiar breed on elite campuses along the Eastern Seaboard. Because the game until recently was played mostly at prep schools and in the upper-middle-class communities on New York’s Long Island and outside Baltimore, the players tend to be at once macho and entitled, a sometimes unfortunate combination.” The same article also suggested, without specifics, that they “sometimes behave like thugs”. …

Whatever validity the lacrosse-thug stereotype might have as to some players, at some colleges, in some years, the 2005 – 2006 Duke team was branded with it by dozens of journalists and thousands of others who had never met a Duke lacrosse player. People who properly shunned racial and gender stereotypes had no hesitation asserting that the Duke team had it coming because lacrosse players were a bad bunch, and probably racists to boot.

That’s not how they seemed to Devon Sherwood [the team’s only black member]. “I received nothing but love and appreciation and thoughtfulness from my teammates,” he reflected after the tumultuous 2005–2006 academic year had passed. “People were looking out for me… I felt more accepted by this team than ever before in my lacrosse career. It was like a big family.”

The lacrosse players were also like family to Sue Pressler, [lacrosse coach] Mike’s wife. She helped recruit them. They played with the Presslers’ two girls, fourteen-year-old Janet Lynn and eight-year-old Maggie. And she shared their hopes and dreams for a national championship and happy, productive lives. “This class of 2006 seniors, they were always special,” Sue later reflected. …

But apart from the disputed rape charge, the lacrosse players’ infractions, though numerous, ranged from minor down to trivial. They had been involved in no serious misconduct. They had no record of racism, sexism, violence, or bullying. They studied hard. They got good grades, among the best of any Duke athletic squad, and better than any other lacrosse team in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Every member of the Class of 2006 graduated with a grade point average above 3.0. They enrolled in the same kinds of classes as most other Duke students. Of the seniors, two majored in economics, two in engineering, one in public policy, and five in history. Five of the squad’s ten seniors made the honor roll in each of their four years at Duke…

The team also had a good record of community service, especially with a reading program that targeted black and Hispanic children in the Durham public schools. They showed respect and consideration for the people who did menial jobs for the team, minorities, and women. And even more than past Duke teams, the 2005–2006 team had formed a tight bond with the women’s lacrosse team. The two teams practiced side by side.

When the legal case against the players collapsed, defenders of the rush to judgment would fall back on the new mantra that the Duke lacrosse players were “no choirboys” or “no angels”. The implication seemed to be that traits shared by the vast majority of college students nationwide could justify the selective public trashing of the lacrosse players’ character by the authorities, the media, and many Duke professors and administrators. …

As the season began in February 2006, they dreamed of winning the national championship that had barely eluded Duke the previous spring. …

“It’s not unlike a death when your sport ends,” Sue Pressler explained. A tall, athletic woman who was captain of the swimming team at the University of Michigan, a swimming coach at Ohio Wesleyan University, and a tenured faculty member in Physical Education, teaching Exercise Physiology and Kinesiology, Sue understood the passion of young athletes for their sport. “These lacrosse players are some of the most elite student athletes in the country,” she explained, at a time when they were being reviled as the shame of the country. … “They were everything you’d want your kid to be – polite, courteous young men who are diligent and stick to task.”


From Chapter 8 – Academic McCarthyism:

Like the media, many professors – and not only the radical fringe – were initially swayed by Nifong’s public comments and the initial silence from the lacrosse players. All but ignored were the captains’ March 16 cooperation with police, their confident March 28 prediction that the DNA would soon clear them, the similar predictions by defense lawyers, and the unlikelihood that they would go out on such a limb without strong reasons for confidence that no rape or sex of any kind had occurred.

But while many of the journalists misled by Nifong eventually adjusted their views as evidence of innocence and of Nifong’s conduct came to light, the activist professors did not. Resolutely refusing to reconsider their initial presumptions as new facts emerged, they served as enthusiastic cheerleaders for Nifong, with whom they had little in common besides their opportunism. For many months not one of the more than five hundred members of the Duke arts and sciences faculty – the professors who teach Duke undergraduates – publicly criticized the district attorney or defended the lacrosse players’ rights to fair treatment. Not even after enough evidence had become publicly available to establish clearly both the falsity of the rape charge and the outrageousness of Nifong’s actions – widely seen as the worst case of prosecutorial misconduct ever to unfold in plain view.

The majority of Duke’s arts and sciences faculty kept quiet as the activists created the impression that Duke professors en masse condemned the lacrosse players. Several months later, John Burness explained their silence: “I think people just go about their business doing what they do and were not paying attention.” But, as some admitted privately to friends, they were also afraid to cross the activists – black and female activists especially – lest they be smeared with charges of racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, or right-wingism.


by Robert Riversong: may be reproduced only with attribution for non-commercial purposes

See also:

When Progressive Social Change Becomes Regressive Ideology: From Women’s Liberation to Cultural Misandry – ReHonoring Masculinity & Achieving Gender Justice

Misandric Feminism vs. Progressive Gender Equality (excerpt of above)

Male Victims of Sexual Violence (also an excerpt of the first essay)

Yellow Journalism and the Meme of “Rape Culture” – Rolling Stone and U-VA Gang Rape

Dear President Sullivan – letter from 17 attorneys involved with campus sexual assault claims throughout America, detailing specific reasons why they “are concerned that the University’s Proposed Student Sexual Misconduct Policy is both vastly over inclusive in attempting to define prohibited conduct and ill equipped to guarantee a procedure for resolving allegations that is fair and impartial”.

It’s Time for a U-VA Apology – Op-Ed from a 25-year U-VA professor and his U-VA junior son

Journalistic Fabulism and Ideological Agendas – the Sabrina Rubin Erdely Story

New Puritanism – New Paternalism – The “Rape Culture” Narrative Demeans Women, Demonizes Men, and Turns Universities into Witch Hunt Tribunals

Dear Senators – letter from 20 attorneys critical of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (S. 2692)

Sexual Assault and Justice: Can we reconcile the belated attention to rape on campus with due process? by Nancy Gertner, feminist lawyer, retired federal judge and Harvard Law professor

The Pendulum Reverses – Again – The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses & Men Strike Back against Title IX Tribunals

HELP for DOE Regulatory Excess – A Senate Task Force Report Recommends Scaling Back the Mountain of Regulations Strangling Higher Education Institutions

Men are Twice-Raped – Domestically and Globally, Men and Boys are Victims of Sexual Violence at rates Equal to those of Women, and are Assumed to be Villains whenever a Woman Accuses

Two Sexual Assault Studies Contradict Stereotypes

All Sex is Rape – All Men are Rapists : Patriarchy = Rape Culture

A Model of Campus Gender-Based Harassment – The Columbia University “Mattress” Story

When the Megaphone becomes the Gavel – Two legal experts on sex discrimination law and procedure argue that the current Title IX mandates for America’s colleges and universities are legally unsupportable and both practically and ethically indefensible.

Two Over-Privileged Millennials Engage in Sex and Get F-cked – The Stanford “Model” Student and her Silicon Valley Mentor

Insurance Industry Revelations and Prescriptions about Campus Sexual Assault

The Feminist Movement has Cannibalized Its Own Core Values and Become Its Own Worst Enemy

The Rape Culture Meme – It’s to authentic human culture what genetically modified corn is to maize.


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