June 19, 2007 in Nation/World

Duke to pay players; judge ousts prosecutor

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review
 

DURHAM, N.C. – Duke University has reached an undisclosed financial settlement with three former lacrosse players falsely accused of rape, while a judge said late Monday he would order the disbarred prosecutor to leave office immediately.

Duke had suspended Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and Dave Evans after they were charged last year with raping a stripper at an off-campus party. The university also canceled the team’s season and forced their coach to resign.

The allegations were debunked in April by state prosecutors, who said the players were the innocent victims of a “tragic rush to accuse” by Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong. He was disbarred Saturday for breaking more than two dozen rules of professional conduct in his handling of the case.

The players’ families racked up millions of dollars of legal bills in their defense and appear likely to sue Nifong.

The players said in a joint statement that they hoped the agreement would “begin to bring the Duke family back together again.”

“The events of the last year tore the Duke community apart, and forcibly separated us from the university we love,” they said.

“We were the victims of a rogue prosecutor concerned only with winning an election, and others determined to railroad three Duke lacrosse players and to diminish the reputation of Duke University.”

Earlier Monday, Nifong said he planned to leave office next month in a resignation letter to Gov. Mike Easley and Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson, who is overseeing a pending request to remove Nifong from office.

But Nifong’s July 13 departure date wasn’t soon enough for Hudson, who decided late Monday to suspend Nifong from office.

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