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Duke Awaits DNA Results in Rape Probe

March 28, 2006

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) _ Amid days of campus protests, Duke University officials and police awaited DNA test results on 46 members of the school’s highly ranked lacrosse team Tuesday after an exotic dancer claimed she was raped by some of the players.

The case has roiled the campus, raised racial tensions and heightened antagonism between the affluent students at Duke, which costs about $43,000 a year, and the city of Durham, which has a large population of poor people and is about evenly divided between white and black.

``For even a college like Duke, which is in the news a lot, it’s not the way you want to be known,″ said Philip Christoff, a 20-year-old freshman.

The rape was reported two weeks ago. A woman told police she and another dancer were hired to perform at a March 13 private party at a home just off campus. The dancer, a student at North Carolina Central University, told police she was pulled into a bathroom, beaten, choked and raped by three men.

No one has been charged.

Armed with a judge’s order, police took DNA samples with a cheek swab from 46 of the lacrosse team’s 47 players last week. The 47th player, the only black member of the team, did not have to provide DNA because the dancer said her attackers were white.

``I needed to have the information about who will be charged,″ said District Attorney Mike Nifong said. ``I feel pretty confident that a rape occurred.″

Nifong said the team members are standing together and refusing to talk with investigators, and he warned he may bring aiding-and-abetting charges against some of the players.

The alleged victim is black, which has proved a source of tension on campus.

``The circumstances of the rape indicated a deep racial motivation for some of the things that were done,″ Nifong said. ``It makes a crime that is by its nature one of the most offensive and invasive even more so.″

Angry over the team members’ silence and the university’s handling of the case, Durham residents have demonstrated on and off campus in the past few days. They rallied outside the house where the alleged attack occurred, and gathered outside of Duke provost Peter Lange’s home, where they banged on pots and pans until he emerged to answer questions.

Lange said Monday that he believes ``the students would be well-advised to come forward. They have chosen not to.″

The district attorney said he has asked for the state crime lab to expedite DNA testing since the semester at Duke ends in about six weeks, after which he fears students will scatter from Duke’s campus.

A lawyer representing several lacrosse team members did not immediately return calls Tuesday.

The university’s athletic director forced the team to forfeit two games because of underage drinking and the hiring of dancers at the party. The losses gave Duke, considered a national title contender before the season began, a 6-4 record with five regular-season games to go.


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