Duke Athlete to Stand Trial in Georgetown Beating

By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Duke University lacrosse player Collin Finnerty, charged last week in the rape of an exotic dancer in North Carolina, was ordered yesterday to stand trial in Washington on an unrelated charge stemming from an altercation last fall.

Finnerty and two friends are accused of beating a man outside the Georgetown Inn on Nov. 5. Earlier this year, prosecutors agreed to dismiss Finnerty's misdemeanor assault charge if he stayed out of trouble and completed 25 hours of community service. But yesterday they revoked that deal in light of the allegations at Duke and said they plan to take the case to trial.

"The dynamics of the case have changed drastically," said Assistant U.S. Attorney O. Benton Curtis III.

Prosecutors cited Finnerty's indictment on rape and other charges in Durham, N.C. The indictment stems from accusations by a 27-year-old woman that she was raped, sodomized and choked during a March 13 party at the off-campus rental home of three of the lacrosse team's captains. Fellow Duke lacrosse player Reade Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J., also was indicted. The players' attorneys have said they are not guilty.

Finnerty, 19, could face up to six months in jail on the charge in the District. The charging documents quote the victim as saying that Finnerty and two other men accosted him early Nov. 5 on Wisconsin Avenue NW after calling him gay and making derogatory remarks.

The Duke sophomore was accompanied to D.C. Superior Court yesterday by family members, his attorney and his priest. He swallowed hard after telling the judge he understood what was happening in the proceedings.

Judge John H. Bayly Jr. set a trial date of July 10 on the D.C. assault charge but left open the possibility of delaying the case until the North Carolina matter is concluded.

Bayly allowed Finnerty, from Garden City, N.Y., to be released on his own recognizance. But he placed new conditions on Finnerty and his two co-defendants. They must abide by a 9 p.m. curfew, contact court officials weekly and stay away from alcohol. If they violate the conditions, Bayly said, he would not hesitate to put them in the D.C. jail or a halfway house.

Prosecutors took no action to unravel their earlier agreements with the other defendants, who still can have their cases dismissed if they complete community service.

Chip Royer, an attorney who represents the accuser in the Georgetown incident, said his client did not attend yesterday's hearing but plans to testify at any trial.

Finnerty's attorney, Steven J. McCool, said there are no similarities between the allegations in North Carolina and Washington. He also said the Georgetown incident was not a case of gay-bashing or bias.

The Rev. James C. Williams, president of Chaminade High School in Mineola, N.Y., from which Finnerty graduated in 2004, wrote one of three character references submitted to the court. "The incident which brings Collin before you is not consistent with the young man that he is," Williams wrote.

Finnerty left the courthouse without comment yesterday.

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