DURHAM — Days before a woman said Duke University lacrosse players raped and beat her, she was passed out cold at a Hillsborough strip club and had to be carried to the parking lot, according to the club's former manager.
In that gravel parking lot on the night of March 11, the four people carrying the woman accidentally dropped her, said Yolanda Haynes, the club's former manager.
Haynes' account of that night at the club offers a possible explanation for the scratches doctors would later note on the accuser's body. The story adds potential ammunition for the lacrosse players' lawyers who say the allegations of rape are lies. The account also describes behavior, including incoherence and unconsciousness, that is consistent with how the woman was acting the night of the lacrosse party.
Based on the woman's account to police, District Attorney Mike Nifong had three players indicted, accusing them of rape, kidnapping and a sexual offense. The players, Dave Evans, 23, of Bethesda, Md.; Collin Finnerty, 20, of Garden City, N.Y.; and Reade Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J., say that no rape or assault occurred at the party. Nifong has not discussed the facts of the case for months.
Haynes, 34, has not spoken to authorities and said she has no reason to, because she wasn't at the March 13 party and doesn't know what happened there. In an interview Monday, she described the accuser as a club employee whose problems with other dancers and customers sometimes made it hard for her to make money.
The News & Observer generally does not identify the complainants in sexual assault cases. The accuser could not be reached.
On March 11, Haynes said, a couple came into the club and the accuser, who danced under the name "Precious," started pulling the female customer's hair. Someone complained, and Haynes said she told the accuser to go to the bathroom. When Haynes followed, she found the accuser naked and passed out cold, she said. Someone called the woman's boyfriend, and it took four people to get her outside to the car. The accuser had vomited, but Haynes said she did not smell alcohol.
Haynes said she often worked the bar at the club and never saw the accuser drink.
The woman and another dancer were hired to perform for the party which began March 13 and broke up shortly after midnight. After the party, a Durham police officer noted that the accuser appeared to be passed out in the passenger seat of a car. The officer wrote in his notes that he thought the woman might have been feigning unconsciousness. When he tried to remove her from the car, she resisted by grabbing the handle of the emergency brake.
Later when she told police she had been raped, doctors at Duke Hospital noted that the woman had two scratches on her right knee and a short scratch on her right heel. None of the scratches were bleeding. Other than diffuse swelling in her vagina, the doctors documented no other injuries.
Staff writer Benjamin Niolet can be reached at (919) 956-2404 or firstname.lastname@example.org.