Rape charges against Duke University students dropped

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The Independent US

Prosecutors have announced they have dropped allegations of rape against three lacrosse players from Duke University who had been accused of attacking a stripper at a party. However, prosecutors intend to proceed with kidnapping and sexual offence charges.

Joseph Cheshire, a lawyer for one of the three young men, was informed that the most serious charge had been dropped. District Attorney Mike Nifong came to the decision after the alleged victim - a 28-year-old woman and student at another college - could no longer say for certain she had been raped.

The case sent shockwaves through the renowned North Carolina university and throughout the country as it highlighted faultlines of race and inequality. The three accused were wealthy and white while the alleged victim was a black single mother who worked part-time as a stripper while trying to complete her studies at a largely black college. The woman is pregnant and expecting to give birth in the new year.

She originally said she had been raped by the three men, Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, at a party last March at a house where she was performing. Lawyers insisted their three clients were innocent and DNA tests failed to provide any evidence.

The lawyers sought to raise further doubts by highlighting discrepancies with both police procedures and the testimony of a second stripper at the house.

Mr Cheshire said it was "highly coincidental" charges were being dropped a week after the director of a private DNA testing lab acknowledged he initially, with Mr Nifong's knowledge, withheld from the defence team test results showing none of the players' DNA was found.