DURHAM, N.C. — A group of former Duke University lacrosse players wrongly arrested on rape charges in 2006 has asked a federal appeals court to let their lawsuit against the City of Durham move forward.
Cleared players David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann sued Durham and a long list of officials that include the former city manager and former police chief, arguing that their civil rights were violated after they were indicted on felony charges that police and prosecutors knew to be false.
Thirty-eight of the men’s former teammates have also filed suit against the city over a photo line-up shown to the accuser that only included lacrosse players.
Though local governments typically enjoy broad immunity from liability stemming from official actions, a judge ruled in March that the suit against Durham could proceed. The city appealed that ruling.
Lawyers for the players filed a 91-page brief last week asking that appeals judges in Richmond, Va., uphold the lower court’s ruling and allow a jury trial over possible damages.
Reginald B. Gillespie, Jr., one of the lawyers defending the city, said Monday he could not comment on a pending case.
Lawyers for the cleared players could not be immediately reached.
No date has yet been set for a hearing before the appeals judges.
If the athletes are successful in getting a trial, city taxpayers could soon be asked to pay for more of the ballooning legal expenses in the more than 3-year-old case.
Under the city’s liability policy with a subsidiary of AIG, the city had to cover the first $500,000 in legal fees and the insurance giant was responsible for the next $5 million.
As of Thursday, a spokeswoman for the city attorney’s office in Durham said AIG had paid nearly $4.3 million in legal fees related to the case.
In the 2006 case that garnered national attention, the players were arrested after a student from nearby N.C. Central University hired as a stripper at a team party said she was gang-raped. Yet the case against the three players unraveled within months as the details of the accuser’s story changed and the public learned of her past criminal record and mental illness.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper later declared the players innocent and the lead prosecutor in the case was disbarred.
The accuser in the case, Crystal Mangum, was arrested earlier this year and charged with murder in the stabbing death of her boyfriend, authorities said. She is awaiting trial.
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