Crime

15 players had prior charges

In the past three years, about a third of the members of the Duke lacrosse team, under investigation in a reported gang rape, have been charged with misdemeanors stemming from drunken and disruptive behavior, court records show.

Of the team's 47 members, 15 faced charges including underage alcohol possession, having open containers of alcohol, loud noise and public urination.

Most of those charges were resolved in deals with prosecutors that allowed the players to escape criminal convictions.

On Monday, details continued to emerge in the March 13 incident in which a woman who was hired as an exotic dancer for a lacrosse team party said she was held down, beaten, strangled, raped and sodomized. When the woman and another dancer began their routines, the woman said, one of the men watching held up a broomstick and threatened to sexually assault the women, according to court documents released Monday.

The women were told that the men at the party were members of the baseball or track teams, apparently to hide their identities, according to a document that was used to obtain a judge's order requiring each member of the team to submit to a DNA test. After the broomstick threat, the women left but were followed out by a man who persuaded them to return, the document says. That's when, the woman said, three men pushed her into a bathroom and began the assault, which she said lasted for 30 minutes. She lost four fingernails as she scratched at one of the men who was strangling her, according to the document.

After the attack, police found four red polished fingernails in the house in addition to her makeup bag, cell phone and identification, the newly released document says.

A Duke spokesman said that the team captains have denied criminal wrongdoing.

"In direct conversations with the captains, there was absolute denial of the criminal allegations," John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, said in an interview.

Burness said that Duke is not investigating the incident because university officials do not want to interfere with police.

DNA tests awaited

The incident left many in Durham angry, and protests and vigils have been held on and off campus.

Investigators are awaiting the results of the DNA tests, which will compare DNA from all but one member of the lacrosse team to samples taken from the victim. Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong said those results should be complete next week. Meanwhile, Nifong said charges are possible against those who were at the party but did nothing to stop a rape.

"We're talking about a situation where had somebody spoken up and said, 'Wait a minute, we can't do this,' this incident might not have taken place," Nifong said.

Nifong said he plans to prosecute the case himself to send a message to the community that authorities are taking the offense seriously. A first-degree rape conviction requires prison time, at least 16 years in most cases for someone with no previous criminal record.

Burness said he did not know about the history of criminal charges against lacrosse players, but it was possible some violations had been forwarded to the university's student affairs office for possible disciplinary action in the past.

In many of the cases, the students were allowed a deferred prosecution, a deal with first-time offenders in which prosecutors would drop the charges if the suspect stayed out of trouble and performed community service.

On Monday, protests were on Duke's campus rather than at the house, one of 15 properties Duke bought in February in an effort to reach out to neighbors who have complained of rowdy parties at houses rented by students. Burness said the lacrosse captains who lived at the house have asked the university to relieve them of their lease.

"My speculation is that the house is such a target they're concerned about their security and safety," Burness said.

(Staff writer Jane Stancill and news researcher Brooke Cain contributed to this report.)

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