Transcript of a news report about the Duke lacrosse players accused of rape in 2006. They turned out to be innocent.
But first, word coming in just a few minutes ago that amid allegations of gang rape, the lacrosse team at Duke University in North Carolina is now suspended. The stunning allegations affect some of the country‘s top athletes at Duke, who are vying for the national title. An exotic dancer claims she was held down, beaten, strangled, raped and then sodomized at an off-campus lacrosse team party, all during spring break.
For the late-breaking developments, let‘s go live to NBC‘s Donna Gregory, who‘s on the campus tonight. Donna, first of all, what‘s the reaction to the suspension there?
DONNA GREGORY, NBC CORRESPONDENT: I have to tell you, Rita, reaction has been strong for the last several weeks, ever since allegations surfaced that that woman may have been gang raped at the lacrosse party. And just a few moments ago, the president of Duke University and the athletic director got together in the building you see behind me to say that the entire season will be suspended until those allegations are cleared up. Now, keep in mind, these are allegations. And the president stressed that this is America, they do not have a right to force anyone to say anything on the Duke campus, and police always tell people when they are arrested that they have the right to remain silent, and that has been the case for all of the Duke players.
Now, this woman has alleged that she was gang raped at this party. The team members categorically deny that a rape occurred, but they do admit that there was underage drinking at the party on March 13. They also admit that they did hire these two women, who were from an escort service. Both are these are team and school infractions.
So the president of Duke University, Richard Brodhead, said he made the decision to suspend the current season after talking with three team captains this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD BRODHEAD, DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT: We believe that the suspension of play is the right course of action, and we also see the importance of their taking responsibility for their conduct. In a slight modification, I have decided that future games should be suspended until there is clear resolution of the legal situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: And Rita, again, just to give you a little background on this story, it happened March 13. There was a party. These women were hired—two women were hired from an escort service to perform at what they were told would be a bachelor party for five young men. When they got to the party, they say there were many more men than that. They say at least 40 were at this party. They say they started to perform but were taunted with racial epithets, and they said they were also threatened to be sexually assaulted with a broomstick.
They say they tried to leave the party but were talked back into coming back into the party by a couple of the partygoers, who came outside to plead with them to come back.
One woman did go inside. She said she thought her friend was with her. The friend eventually left, she said, after looking for the woman who was inside. Now, the woman inside claims that she was taken into a bathroom and sexually assaulted by three men. She said the incident lasted 30 minutes.
And Rita, I should tell you, the local DA said after interviewing the woman and seeing her demeanor, he does believe that a rape took place that night—Rita.
COSBY: Donna, thank you very much. Please get back to us if there‘s any more developments.
And joining me now live is Durham County district attorney Mike Nifong, who is personally taking on the case. Mr. District Attorney, what about this case made you decide that you wanted to get involved personally? And how disgusted are you about the allegations?
MIKE NIFONG, DURHAM COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Well, this is the type of case that because of the—on top of the rape, which is already an abhorrent crime enough, you have the additional racial animus and hostility that just seems totally out of place for this community in this day and age. And I felt that this was a case that we needed to make a statement, as a community, that we would not tolerate this kind of behavior here in Durham. And I felt that the best way to make that statement was to take this case myself.
COSBY: Where exactly is she saying that this rape took place? What part of the home?
NIFONG: The rape and the other sexual assaults took place in the bathroom.
COSBY: And how long did she say it took place? We‘re hearing reports of 30 minutes. And how many guys does she believe were present?
NIFONG: My understanding is that the estimates of time range from about 15 minutes to about 30 minutes. A lot of times, when things like that are going on, they seem to last longer than they actually do. And there were three men involved in the direct assault on her.
COSBY: You know, you say three men. I know that you‘ve gotten DNA for what, more than 40 members of the lacrosse team. Why is that critical? What are you trying to hone in on?
NIFONG: Well, if there is DNA evidence within the victim, then this will enable us to definitely establish who the perpetrators of the offense were. At this point, of course, we don‘t know whether or not there is DNA available to test, but if that is found, then we have—by taking samples from all the members of the lacrosse team who fit profile, we will be able to determine which of those players was the person or which ones of those players were the people who committed the assault.
COSBY: You know, I want to show some details of the assault that have gotten out, and they are quite graphic. It says one of the men watching held up a broomstick and threatened to sexually assault the women. After the broomstick threat, the women left, but were followed out by a man, who persuaded them to return. That‘s when three men pushed her into a bathroom and began the assault, which in this report says she said lasted 30 minutes.
Why do you definitely believe there was a rape here, sir? What evidence is giving you that indication?
NIFONG: That a rape actually did occur? The victim‘s demeanor, the fact that when she was examined by a nurse who was trained in sexual assault, there was swelling and pain in the areas that would have been affected by the rape. The victim gave signs of having been through a traumatic situation. She seemed to be absolutely honest about what had occurred to her.
COSBY: Mr. District Attorney, good luck in tracking down these guys who obviously may have done this horrible thing. Thank you so much, sir.
So is DNA the key to finding out if a rape was committed? Joining me now is forensic expert Dr. Larry Kobilinsky. Doctor, you just heard the district attorney. He says he believes a rape occurred. Do you believe DNA is going to solve this?
LARRY KOBILINSKY, FORENSIC SCIENTIST: Well, clearly, DNA is going to be the most important evidence. But you know, I hope the DA is right in saying that DNA will resolve the issue because this is far more complicated than you might think. When we have three assailants and the DNA of the victim, all of the DNA combined into that evidence, it becomes very difficult to sort things out. In fact, at each site, at each genetic site that we analyze, we may be looking at at least eight different genes. And what that simply means is that it‘s a complicated picture when you have multiple assailants.
COSBY: And how excessive (ph) is it also to take the DNA of more than 40 guys, Doctor?
KOBILINSKY: Well, that is not that unusual. There have been these kind of dragnet—DNA dragnets before. And I think they may be able to say that a particular individual cannot be excluded as a donor of the DNA evidence, but on the other hand, the inclusion, the statistics of inclusion are going to be very, very complex.
COSBY: Let me also show, Doctor, a couple of things were also found at this home, and there‘s some key items. She also lost four fingernails. It sounds like it was a pretty vicious fight she was trying to hold off. Sure enough, they found four red-polished fingernails there, her cell phone, make-up bag and also ID at the house. What can authorities, real quick, get from these pieces of evidence?
KOBILINSKY: Well, I think of those items, the fingernails are probably the most important because it appears she probably scratched her assailant to try to get this person off of her, and there may be DNA under the fingernails.
COSBY: All right, Doctor. Thank you very much.
Well, hundreds of outraged protesters continue to rally near the college campus over the alleged gang rape incident. Joining me now is the woman who‘s been organizing them, Manju Rajendran, who‘s been coming back from the protest. Why are the protests—why are they so critical? And what‘s getting everybody also riled up about this particular case?
MANJU RAJENDRAN, PROTEST ORGANIZER: I‘m sorry to have to correct you, but I‘m actually just one of many people who are organizing around what‘s happened, around the sexual violence, around the racism. I‘m actually just one more community member in a whole sea of Durham community members who are outraged about what‘s happened.
COSBY: Well, good for you for getting involved. And I think it‘s important for the community to respond, especially, if, indeed, this rape occurred. What‘s bothering you, Manju, particularly about this case? I mean, we‘re hearing from the DA there were some racial slurs, according to the victim. Obviously, the rape is atrocious enough. What is it that‘s hit a nerve so much?
RAJENDRAN: Well, I feel like this rape is an outrage, the racist attack is an outrage. But I feel like this is much bigger than Duke and Durham. I feel like we, as a nation, are wrestling with a long legacy of institutionalized racism and a whole culture of sexual violence. We‘re trying to undo a long legacy here, with centuries of oppression.
COSBY: Well, we‘ve got—and in fact, a comment—this is—as you know, there was just a press conference just a little bit ago from the president of the university, and I want to play a little bit of what he had to say. I‘ll get you to respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRODHEAD: Physical coercion and sexual assault are unacceptable in any setting and will not be tolerated at Duke. The claims against our players, if verified, would warrant very severe penalties both from the university and in the courts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: Manju, do you feel that the university has done enough? They just suspended the team, as you may have just heard.
RAJENDRAN: I‘m glad that Duke finally stepped forward and said something, but I feel like Richard Brodhead made really weak statement this evening, essentially excusing the behavior of the athletes as the understandable behavior or forgivable behavior of 18 to 22-year-olds. I‘m personally outraged, and I feel like Duke‘s meager response at the press conference tonight was really a direct reaction to the uproar of the community. And I consider this the beginning of a long series of victories of the people.
COSBY: What would you like to see happen? What do you think they could do? I mean, right now, they suspended the guys. They did take the DNA of all the guys. Until they know, you know, who are the three or more responsible, or less, what can they do?
RAJENDRAN: Well, I hope that we see this as a moment to galvanize as a community. I hope that we see this as a moment to—for Duke and Durham to really analyze our relationship and for us, as a community, to really wrestle with issues of racism, classism and sexism. I hope that this begins a real challenge to sexual assault. And the banging of pots and pans is going to be facing the Duke lacrosse team at every turn that they make until justice is served.
COSBY: And real quick, the banging of pots and pans is symbolic, real quick, why?
RAJENDRAN: Yes, it‘s absolutely—it‘s a symbol, it‘s a challenge, it‘s a confrontation. We‘re borrowing the tradition of the (INAUDIBLE) from Latin American protesters. Women in Lima, Peru, initiated this as a way of surrounding the houses of women who were being assaulted by their husbands or by their partners. And it was a very confrontational way of saying, We demonstrate solidarity with the women who are being attacked in this way or by anyone who‘s being persecuted in this fashion. We challenge the racism and the sexism and the classism implicit in these actions. We want to shame the attackers, and we want to invite the witnesses to step forward and come clean. We really...
COSBY: And Manju, those are all...
RAJENDRAN: We‘re coming to this...
COSBY: Those are all great points. We‘ve unfortunately got to wrap up, but those are all great points. And (INAUDIBLE) with those pots and pans are definitely being heard loud and clear, and we‘re glad to have you on tonight. And we will continue to follow this story and keep the pressure on. You bet. Thank you very much.