Cop says nurse found trauma in Duke case

But investigator's report in lacrosse case contradicts evidence in the prosecutor's files on some key points

Staff WriterAugust 27, 2006 

— The lead investigator in the Duke lacrosse case wrote that a Duke Hospital nurse said the accuser had been subjected to "blunt force trauma" consistent with a sexual assault.

Sgt. Mark Gottlieb made this observation in a typed, single-spaced, 33-page summary of the case handed to defense lawyers in July. It is not clear when it was written.

Parts of Gottlieb's account differ at key points from medical records, other investigators' notes and other documents in the prosecutor's files. For example, the accuser's descriptions of her alleged assailants in Gottlieb's account of his first meeting with her contradict the descriptions found in handwritten notes his partner took at the same meeting.

Gottlieb is the senior investigator on the case, and his "Supplemental Case Notes" form a crucial part of the state's investigation into the charges that three Duke University lacrosse players gang-raped an escort service dancer at a team party on the night of March 13.

Gottlieb's account provides new details on what the detective said he uncovered in the crucial first month of the investigation, before any indictments were handed down. Some information is not found in previous documents produced by District Attorney Mike Nifong.

Directing the investigation, Gottlieb ordered up lineups, interviewed suspects and executed search warrants. His testimony will be crucial at any trial of the three accused players: David Evans, 23, of Bethesda, Md.; Collin Finnerty, 19, of Garden City, N.Y., and Reade Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J.

Gottlieb has spent 15 years with the Durham police as a patrolman, investigator and supervisor.

He was recently in the news for his role in an alleged assault that involved racial slurs outside a Raleigh sports bar in July. Two Durham police officers have been charged with misdemeanor assault on a cook at Blinco's. Gottlieb and two other officers are under internal investigation.

Gottlieb and his partner on the lacrosse case, Investigator Benjamin Himan, did not return phone calls.

On Friday, Nifong declined to discuss the case, saying "I don't comment on what other people say about the case."

Gottlieb's account contradicts notes and documents generated earlier in the investigation, according to Wade Smith, a Raleigh defense lawyer who represents Finnerty. Defense lawyers discussed Gottlieb's account after The New York Times published an article on the case Friday.

Smith was troubled by the lack of handwritten notes from Gottlieb, who produced only two pages of handwritten notes to accompany his 33-page typed account. Those two pages, taken on April 27, described a search for a lab to conduct hair analysis.

"This is a pristine white document that fell out of the sky four months later," Smith said. "Where are his notes? How can you interview the most important witness you've ever interviewed in your life and not take notes?"

Medical evidence

Gottlieb wrote that on March 21, he took a subpoena to Duke Hospital and interviewed the nurse who examined the accuser for evidence of sexual assault. Gottlieb produced no handwritten notes of this interview.

"I asked her if the exam was consistent with blunt force trauma, and she replied yes," Gottlieb wrote.

The nurse, Tara Levicy, "stated the victim had [swelling] and tenderness to palpitation both anally and especially vaginally. She stated it was so painful to have the speculum inserted vaginally, that it took an extended period of time to insert same to conduct an examination. I asked her if the blunt force trauma was consistent with the sexual assault that was alleged by the victim. She stated the trauma was consistent with the victim's allegation."

The Duke Hospital medical records make no mention of blunt force trauma. The sexual assault examination form has a section where the examiner is told to "Describe all signs of physical trauma." Levicy wrote that the woman had two nonbleeding scratches on her right knee and a nonbleeding scratch on her right heel.

Under "Physical Examination," the nurse noted diffuse swelling of the vagina. The nurse left all other parts of the pelvic examination section blank, including the line for a rectal exam.

Suspects' descriptions

The identification of the suspects has been a key point of dispute in the case. Defense lawyers and law professors have criticized the procedures used by Durham police. That process started at noon on March 16, when Gottlieb and Himan first interviewed the accuser.

According to Gottlieb's typed account of the interview, the woman was in great pain and became emotional: "Tears ran down her face freely and her nose began to run." Gottlieb noted that "the victim stated she had bruising that was beginning to show up from the assault," 60 hours after the party. He ordered Investigator R.A. Reid to take photographs, and noted that "Reid stated she had the onset of new bruises present."

Reid's typed report makes no mention of bruises, only a cut heel, a cut toe and bandages on both knees. Reid's photographs of the accuser's face and neck show no bruises.

Gottlieb wrote that on March 16 the woman gave these descriptions of her alleged assailants:

"1) W/M, young, blonde hair, baby faced, tall and lean, 2) W/M, medium height (5' 8"+ with Himan's build) dark hair medium build and had red (rose colored) cheeks, and the third suspect as being a W/M, 6+ feet, large build with dark hair."

In an entry marked 14:15 on March 16, Gottlieb wrote that he asked another investigator "to put together several photo line ups based on the potential suspects named ADAM, BRETT and MATT."

Himan's handwritten notes from the same interview clash with his partner's account. According to Himan, the accuser described each as "heavy," "chubby" or having a "chubby face."

Adam: "white male, short, red cheeks fluffy hair chubby face, brn"

Matt: "Heavy set short haircut 260-270"

Brett: "Chubby"

That night police showed her photographs of 24 players. On March 21, they showed her photographs of 12 more.

Police did not show her a picture of Finnerty, the player who best fits the description of the tall, lean, baby-faced blond found in Gottlieb's account.

She did not identify any assailants, according to an undated report by Investigator Richard Clayton. She picked out four men with 100 percent certainty as having been at the party, and one player, Seligmann, with 70 percent certainty. She could not remember exactly where she saw each person at the party.

"I asked her questions trying to follow up on a better description of the suspects," Himan wrote about his March 21 interview with the woman. "She was unable to remember anything further about the suspects."

4 IDs, 3 indictments

On March 31, Nifong suggested that police have the accuser look at pictures of all 46 white lacrosse players.

This lineup violated the Durham Police Department guidelines that call for photographic arrays to include at least five nonsuspects for every suspect in the lineup. Police and prosecutors had named all 46 players as suspects. The guidelines also called for an independent administrator to conduct the lineup; Gottlieb administered the lineup.

On April 4, the woman identified four players as her assailants. Nifong brought indictments against Evans, Seligmann and Finnerty.

The accuser said Evans had a mustache; Evans' lawyers said he has never had a mustache. She was twice shown a picture of Evans on March 21 but did not recognize him.

Gottlieb wrote that the victim's eyes pooled with tears when she identified Finnerty during the April 4 lineup.

Kim Roberts, the second dancer at the party, looked at the same set of photos in May and recalled Finnerty sitting in the living room: "I remember him because of the freckles on his face, he looked like such a young guy and he reminded me of Opie."

Staff writer Joseph Neff can be reached at 89-4516 or jneff@newsobserver.com.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service