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Prosecutors Drop Duke Rape Counts

"At first when the dismissals started coming across the fax, we went, 'Thank you, Lord -- we finally have justice,' " said Evans's attorney, Joseph Cheshire. "And then we realized it was the dismissal of only one charge."

Asked whether Nifong is guilty of misconduct, Cheshire said: "That's for the North Carolina state bar to decide. I certainly think there are some significant questions here that are worth addressing."

At the behest of Finnerty's family, Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.) has asked Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to open an investigation into the prosecution. "There are people in Durham who are either unwilling or unable to rein in this district attorney," Kevin Finnerty, Collin's father, said yesterday.

His son is "happy that one charge is dropped," he said. "But we're not celebrating. We have two charges outstanding and a lot of work to do."

Evans's father, David C. Evans, declined to comment when reached at work yesterday at a Washington law firm; he referred a reporter to his son's attorney in Durham. The younger Evans was one of nine players from the D.C. area on Duke's lacrosse team, whose season was canceled after the incident.

The accuser was hired for $400 to perform for two hours at the party. She left early as some students shouted racial taunts, witnesses have said.

Problems with the prosecution's case first arose this spring, when a state lab report found no DNA matches for any of the lacrosse players from the rape kit performed on the accuser.

In May, Seligmann's attorneys filed court papers showing that he was withdrawing money from an ATM when the attack is alleged to have occurred.

The lineup procedure used by Durham police also fell under criticism. The detectives used a PowerPoint presentation that included pictures of 46 members of the team and asked the accuser to identify her attackers. But there were no "fillers," or mug shots of men unrelated to the case, used to help verify her identification. The defense team called it "a multiple choice test for which there were no wrong answers."

Last week, the director of a private DNA-testing laboratory said it had omitted from its report that DNA from multiple men -- none a match to the defendants -- was found on vaginal and rectal swabs, on the accuser's body and on her underwear.

Brian Meehan, the lab director, said he and Nifong had agreed to leave out that information because the case was so "explosive." But defense lawyers said it showed that the prosecution had failed to reveal exculpatory evidence.

Dropping the rape charge means the prosecutor no longer needs to rely on DNA evidence, said Joseph E. Kennedy, a law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who specializes in criminal law. Under North Carolina law, first-degree sexual offense can involve penetration with an object.


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