Grand jury indicts third player in Duke lacrosse case

DURHAM, N.C. – In a 24-hour span, Duke University lacrosse captain David Evans received both a bachelor's degree and an indictment naming him as the third player charged with raping a stripper at a team party.

Monday, minutes before turning himself in to authorities, the clean-cut athlete stood up and loudly proclaimed that he and the rest of his teammates were innocent of allegations he labeled "fantastic lies."

"I look forward to watching them unravel in the weeks to come," said the 23-year-old economics major from Bethesda, Md.

"I am innocent. Reade Seligmann is innocent. Collin Finnerty is innocent," Evans said, defending the two other players charged. "Every member of the Duke lacrosse team is innocent. ... You have all been told some fantastic lies.

"I'll gladly stand up to anything that comes against me. I've never had my character questioned before. Anyone who's met me knows this didn't happen."

Evans, who lived at the house where the party was held, was indicted on charges of first-degree forcible rape, sexual offense and kidnapping. Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J., and Finnerty, 19, of Garden City, N.Y., were indicted last month on the same charges.

Along with several lacrosse players, Evans was backed at his news conference by his family, including mother Rae Evans, a Washington lobbyist who is also the chairwoman of the Ladies Professional Golf Association board of directors.

Evans said that he and his roommates helped police find evidence at the house, and that he gave investigators access to his e-mail and instant messenger accounts. He said that his offer to take a lie-detector test was rejected by authorities, and that he later took one on his own and passed.

"I have told the truth from the beginning," he said.

Evans' indictment appeared to cap the investigation into allegations three white men raped a 27-year-old black student at nearby North Carolina Central University. She and another woman were hired to strip at a March 13 team party. Hours after Evans spoke outside the Durham County jail, District Attorney Mike Nifong said he did not expect any more indictments.

Defense attorneys insist no sexual assault occurred at the party. They pointed to DNA tests, which they have said found no conclusive match between any of the team's white players and the accuser.

"We will prove that not only did this rape not happen, but it could not have happened," said Evans' attorney, Joseph Cheshire.

"This is one of the saddest days for justice in the state of North Carolina," he said. "This case has been taken out to the news media before an investigation was finished by a person who was seeking public office."

Cheshire said the accuser had identified Evans with "90 percent certainty" during a photo lineup. Cheshire said the accuser told police she would be 100 percent sure if Evans had a mustache — something he said his client has never had.

Cheshire said some genetic material on a fake fingernail recovered from a bathroom trash can at the house did have some of the same characteristics as Evans' DNA, but called it a link short of a conclusive match.

Evans, an economics major who graduated Sunday, came to Duke from the Landon School, a prep school in suburban Washington, where he also played football and hockey and led the lacrosse team to a three-year record of 56-2.

"He was an exemplary student and athlete," David M. Armstrong, the school's headmaster, said in a statement. "The allegations coming from Durham today are inconsistent with the character of the young man who attended our school."

Last week, Evans lost a deal that would have kept him from being charged with old alcohol and noise violations after prosecutors said he had violated the terms of the agreement by hosting the party.

Prosecutors had agreed to deferred prosecution on an August 2005 charge of having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle, and a January charge of violating the city's noise ordinance. The state had agreed to dismiss the charges if Evans completed community service, paid court costs and stayed out of trouble.

A judge reinstated the alcohol charge, Evans' attorney entered a plea on his behalf, and the student was fined $100.