A few items from the last week serve as reminders of the lacrosse case.
First, a teaser from yesterday’s N&O front page, highlighting an article to appear Sunday (that I’ll blog) on Mike Nifong’s ethically-challenged successor, Tracey Cline.
Second, college football fans might have read about the arrests of two of LSU players (including the starting quarterback) for assault. LSU’s current athletic director is former Duke AD Joe Alleva—who demonstrated a rather uneven record in the lacrosse case: he shifted from initial public support for the lacrosse players to sudden silence, even as faculty members starting publicly going after student-athletes. All the while, he remained on the job despite being involved in a boating accident that resulted in alcohol-related charges against his son, before moving onto LSU at a higher salary.
Alleva’s comment on the football players’ travails? According to the Times-Picayune, “For his part, Alleva said the current problems facing the football team are "frustrating," but added that he understands how to handle delicate off-the-field issues from his experience around an alleged 2006 Duke lacrosse rape case that sparked controversy during his time as athletic director at the school.
“There's a lot of similarities in this situation," said Alleva, who has been at LSU since 2007. "I think it's always disappointing when student-athletes don't behave the way they're expected to."
A “lot of similarities” exist between the situations? Really? In the LSU case, no one appears to be denying that a fight occurred and that people were injured, though the players’ attorney has stated that his clients are innocent. (The lawyer has been careful not to deny that the players participated in a fight.) In the Duke case, on the other hand, the players’ attorneys consistently said that no crime occurred, and no physical evidence existed of any injury.
In the LSU case, the prosecutor and police appear to have behaved ethically—and, indeed, seem to have bent over backwards to ensure cooperation with the players. In the Duke case, on the other hand, both the prosecutor and the police cast legal ethics aside in an attempt to obtain convictions.
In the LSU case, there’s no evidence of race/class/gender-oriented faculty exploiting the situation to advance their pedagogical agendas (perhaps because one of the accused is a non-wealthy African-American, albeit one who owns no fewer than 49 pairs of shoes). In the Duke case, on the other hand, activist professors aggressively exploited the case, initially relying solely on the version of events presented by Mike Nifong—though most, in the 2007 clarifying statement, reaffirmed their rush to judgment even after Nifong’s case imploded.
In the LSU case, the accused players appear to have acted well outside the norm for LSU students (most LSU students, it would seem, don’t engage in bar fights). In the Duke case, on the other hand, the lacrosse players—along with hundreds of other Duke students, and thousands of students nationally—attended a tasteless spring break party; and—along with nearly 20 Duke groups over the course of the 2005-6 academic year, including some athletic parties—hired strippers.
Well, one similarity exists between LSU and Duke: Joe Alleva was the AD in both situations.
And finally, consider this item from Cara Buckley in the New York Times, on the aftermath of the DSK dismissal of charges: “Experts said rape crisis centers usually see a drop in reported cases in the aftermath of high-profile sexual assault cases, especially those in which the prosecution failed, like the case against Duke University lacrosse players.”
Nifong clearly “failed,” but this doesn’t appear to have been Buckley’s meaning about “the prosecution.” In the lacrosse case, of course, Crystal Mangum's varying allegations were thoroughly investigated by the North Carolina attorney general's office. The special prosecutors' investigation used medical, DNA, and electronic evidence--as well as numerous interviews with Mangum, the two men euphemistically termed her "drivers," and lacrosse players who attended the party--to determine that the people Mangum accused were actually innocent, and that no physical contact of any kind between her and the accused could have occurred. Mangum, they concluded in a public report, had either lied or had come to believe her claims (which included, in their final version, an assertion of the rape occurring while she was suspended in mid-air) because of her serious, and longstanding, mental problems.
This process, obviously, was not the "prosecution" having "failed," given that the prosecutor's job is to achieve justice, not to obtain a conviction. Buckley—or her interviewees in the “victim’s rights” movement, whose viewpoint the article reflected—appear actually to maintain that any high-profile sexual assault claim, no matter how flimsy, that doesn’t yield a conviction, by hook or by crook, leads to diminished reports of sexual assault.
On another front, I invite readers to answer this SAT-style question: which of the following is NOT like the other?
a.) The DSK case, in which all sides admitted that sexual contact occurred, and in which a reasonable person could conclude that a sexual assault likely took place;
b.) A recent case involving two ex-NYPD officers, which yielded conviction on minor charges and in which the officer’s defense against rape was the highly implausible contention that he lay down in bed with a drunk woman to whose apartment he had been called but didn’t sexually assault her;
c.) The William Kennedy Smith case, in which all sides admitted that sexual contact occurred, and in which a reasonable person could (though I’d argue shouldn’t) conclude that a sexual assault likely took place;
d.) The Duke lacrosse case, in which no sexual contact of any kind occurred, and in which a state investigation was able to conclusively conclude that each of the accuser’s myriad tales was false.
I suspect that most test-takers would respond “d.” Yet Buckley’s article, reflecting the viewpoints of victims’ rights advocates, lumped the four cases together. And so either (a) given the disparity between press coverage of Mangum’s initial charges and of the players’ exoneration, many people, including potential rape victims, recall the event as initially portrayed, a likely sexual assault (thus implying continuing harm to the falsely accused players’ reputations); or (b) Buckley, whose article contained no quotes from any defense attorneys, buried the lede—that victims’ rights groups, for their own reasons, choose to link the lacrosse case with cases in which some doubt about guilt is actually plausible, in a manner that almost would have to raise suspicions that something must have happened in Durham.
On the latter point, in sentiments recalled the extremism of former SANE-nurse-in-training Tara Levicy, Buckley reports, "None of the women’s advocates interviewed expressed doubt in Ms. Diallo’s claim that she was assaulted." Ideological blinders work wonders.
The latter two items testify to the lasting reputational damage to the falsely accused players caused by the unethical actions of Nifong, the DPD, and figures such Levicy and Dr. Brian Meehan.