June 18, 2007

That Didn't Take Long

Duke University moved quickly to end the debacle that they themselves stoked over the false accusations of rape against three of their students. Two days after the North Carolina State Bar disbarred prosecutor Mike Nifong for his role in railroading the lacrosse team members, Duke settled the civil claims brought against the university:

Duke University has reached an undisclosed financial settlement with three former lacrosse players falsely accused of rape, the school said Monday.

Duke suspended Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and Dave Evans after they were charged last year with raping a stripper at an off-campus party. The university also canceled the team's season and forced their coach to resign.

"We welcomed their exoneration and deeply regret the difficult year they and their families have had to endure," the school said in a statement. "These young men and their families have been the subject of intense scrutiny that has taken a heavy toll." ...

The players said in a joint statement that they hoped the agreement would "begin to bring the Duke family back together again."

"The events of the last year tore the Duke community apart, and forcibly separated us from the university we love," they said. "We were the victims of a rogue prosecutor concerned only with winning an election, and others determined to railroad three Duke lacrosse players and to diminish the reputation of Duke University."

The "others" referenced in that statement undoubtedly means the Duke 88, those faculty members who publicly libeled the three accused in a newspaper ad. The report by the AP does not mention whether the agreement includes an end to action against the 88. If it does, Duke must have ponied up a lot of money to get the three players to talk about "love" and the university in the same breath.

If not, the 88 may find themselves the target of another lawsuit -- but probably after the three get finished with Nifong himself. His belated remorse will not likely save him from the legal wrath of those he went out of his way to wrong. They have millions of dollars in legal bills to defray, and those attorneys will make sure someone pays the piper.


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Comments (29)

Posted by Larry J | June 18, 2007 4:07 PM

Instead of raising tuitition or using insurance to pay damages, Duke should cut the budgets of the "Duke 88"'s departments. Stupidity should be painful and cutting their budgets will hit them where they'll feel it.

Posted by jimboster | June 18, 2007 4:15 PM

The "88 ad" is not libelous. It mentions no names and doesn't even specifically mention the alleged rape. It's basically a bunch of students reiterating their opinions on the racial climate at Duke. If opinions on public issues are libelous, Captain, you could be in big trouble.

Posted by MarkJ | June 18, 2007 4:42 PM

Dear jimboster,

Nice try, but no cigar. Read and reflect on the error of your ways:


Posted by Paul L. | June 18, 2007 4:49 PM

How do to justify the last line of the Duke group of 88 ad?
You will note the date March 13th. What was alleged to have happened on that day? And if the ad was so innocent, why did the Duke Department of African & African American Studies pull it from their server?

The students know that the disaster didn’t begin on March 13th and won’t end with what the police say or the court decides. Like all disasters, this one has a history. And what lies beneath what we’re hearing from our students are questions about the future.
This ad, printed in the most easily seen venue on campus, is just one way for us to say that we’re hearing what our students are saying.
Some of these things were said by a mixed (in every way possible) group of students on Wednesday, March 29th at an African &
African American Studies Program forum, some were printed in an issue of the Independent that came out that same day, and some
were said to us inside and outside of the classroom.
"We’re turning up the volume in a moment when some of the most vulnerable among us are being asked to quiet down while we wait. To the students speaking individually and to the protestors making collective noise, thank you for not waiting and for making yourselves heard"

Posted by Ron C | June 18, 2007 4:54 PM

MOST of those idiots with their attack on the accused were tenured instructors of Duke - and all tried the accused and found them guilty before any trial or jury rendered a verdict.

They deserve nothing but contempt for their slander, and having to pay a high price for it. And yes, it was indeed slander - enough to force Duke U to pay for it.

Posted by NahnCee | June 18, 2007 4:55 PM

It's basically a bunch of students reiterating their opinions ...

A bunch of students or a bunch of faculty?

Posted by Carol Herman | June 18, 2007 4:57 PM

Seligman also just announced he's going to Brown, come the fall. I bet included in this deal, above, is enough money to cover all his expenses.

I've asked someone who carries a law degree from Duke, if the "amount of the settlementS" will ever come out. But so far? The big ones are usually contained within secrecy clauses.

Nifong, too, says he'll resign on Friday, July 13th. Does he keep his pension? His immunity from prosecution? And, is his pay scale set at his DA's job of $110,000 per year? Those are unknowns. Since lots of government jobs come WITH immunity.

Also, the collegiate group that hosts all the college LaCrosse teams, has just extended TO Duke, an extra year, so they can compete, score wise, without the distress of "having lost a season."

Will Nifong write a book?

Or will he follow Chuck Colson's path and "get himself some religion?"

The harms are astronomical.

While sitting at home, is Magnum, not able to collect any money. You think she doesn't deserve? Nifong used her. Not the other way around. He also told her on the night she was too drunk to care for herself WHILE SHE WAS ALSO HAVING A PSYCHOTIC breakdown ... that he was gonna take her kids away!

So at least you can see how this accident happened. It veered off course because Nifong thought he'd get away with it. But he's been caught.

Still has his pension. And, his BUBBLE. The safety of being immune from prosecution.

Hope Libby gets vindicated, too. (Some very rich laywers are actually betting heavy, that the 4th circuit tosses the case.)

Makes for interesting news.

Posted by tgharris | June 18, 2007 5:07 PM

Duke says, "We welcomed their exoneration....". I bet they did. That's why they settled out of court.

What a joke.

As for the "Gang of 88"....Were I a Duke alum, the school wouldn't get a nickel from me until I knew that said "Gang" was paying their own way in this debacle.

Posted by jimboster | June 18, 2007 6:51 PM

No matter how offensive you find the ad and no matter if the people quoted are actually students or not- it just isn't libelous.
Remember, there was underage drinking that evening, there were sexist comments, there were racial slurs. Even if a sympathetic jury found in favor of the lacrosse players, it would be overturned on appeal. There's no case against the group of 88 and the lacrosse players' attorneys know it- they won 't go after them. You may not like it, but that's the way it is.

Posted by exdem13 | June 18, 2007 7:07 PM

Aww, shaddup, jimboster, and let go of your Church Lady huffiness over the lacrosse players. They had a party, and an ambitious weasel tried to use the party as a political leg up by indulging in some racial courtroom antics. Now he is fired and running for the hills. Duke University, which publicly aided & abetted his posturing, is literally being held to account-its bank account-for having trash-talked the non-guilty. I hope this serves as a firm warning to prosecutors and PC -indulging university administrators across the nation. Try to use other peoples' lives as political poker chips, and they could lose their shirts.

Posted by ggeisel | June 18, 2007 7:11 PM

No matter how offensive you find the ad and no matter if the people quoted are actually students or not- it just isn't libelous.

I'm no attorney, so I am not competent to assert this, but the Gang of 88 did imply over their signatures much more than they stated, and the ad congratulated and encourged sudents who published and posted "wanted" posters picturing the lacrosse players as wanted for rape.

That's seems libelous to me, or at least participating in libel very actively.

Posted by TheGrandMufti | June 18, 2007 7:43 PM


The student quotes in the ad were fictitious and were based on the proffered "narrative" of events put forward by the Group of 88 in their rush to judgment.

KC Johnson has some compelling articles on the Group of 88 and the ad.

Posted by Mrs. Davis | June 18, 2007 7:50 PM

The lacrosse players might not have prevailed, but they would have had a lot of fun in discovery. And it would have gone on for a long time. With lots of leaks. And that would have cost Duke a lot of money in alumni contributions and a significant reduction in the quality of students accepting admittance.

Going after the Gang of 88 would create the same problems for Duke, so its hard to see Duke settling without having their potential liability covered by the settlement. Of course, that would drive up the cost.

Including attorney's fees, I'd guess low-mid 8 digits.

Posted by Scrapiron | June 18, 2007 8:30 PM

I could be on the jury. The 88 are guilty as hell of slander and stupidity. What else have we came to expect from the world of 'left wing' professiors, surely not an educated student?

Posted by NahnCee [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2007 8:37 PM

Including attorney's fees, I'd guess low-mid 8 digits.

It needed to have been enough to make up for three "ruined lives" PLUS attorney fees. How much would an investment banker educated at Duke expect to make during the rest of his "ruined life"?

I can't wait to see the fund-raising campaign Duke is going to have to roll out real soon now. Although I'll bet some of it was paid by insurance, but even then, Duke is going to have their premiums raised raised raised.

Oh, and no, I don't think the silly bitch stripper is entitled to one red cent. She'd tried the same gambit before a different time on different people, so I'm not interested in whether she was drunk or hallucinating or intimidated or whatever during this round. If she ends up lolling in her own urine puddle, homeless and in the street, fine. Just make sure her kids are taken away from her before she does them any further harm.

Posted by Steven Den Beste | June 18, 2007 8:59 PM

The legendary advertisement is not the only public utterance by the "Gang of 88" or by individual members thereof which might be actionable. Several of them were rather public in their denunciations over the course of several months, and many of those denunciations would probably be judged to be libelous in a fair court.

I agree that it's virtually certain that part of this agreement was that the students would not sue Duke faculty.

Posted by Dean Wormer | June 18, 2007 9:16 PM

What do you think "Student Activity Fees" are for?

Posted by Beldar | June 18, 2007 10:47 PM

Settlement agreements of this sort uniformly include a release not only of the institution paying the settlement consideration (here, Duke University), but also of the institution's "officers, agents, and employees." Deleting that standard, "boilerplate" language would be very controversial — almost equivalent to encouraging the players to sue the faculty members. I've seen no indication that the Duke University administration (or frankly, any comparable institution in comparable circumstances) has that kind of backbone.

Putting principle aside, and considering simple economics: In purchasing its peace, Duke would almost certainly want to ensure that it can't be dragged back into this dispute by new lawsuits against its faculty who were among "the Duke 88." Such professors, if sued in their individual capacities, might nevertheless contend that Duke was obliged to pay for lawyers to defend them, and to pay off any judgment that might eventually be entered against them. Even if Duke had no such responsibility — and whether it does or doesn't would make a pretty good law school exam question — merely establishing that would still cost Duke lots more money and bad publicity. And any university also has an interest in ending controversy about its faculty members, right or wrong.

For all these reasons, I think it is extremely unlikely that the players could end up suing the Duke 88 folks either individually or collectively. Understand, please: I'm not saying this is the way things ought to be, but only that this is the way things almost certainly are.

Suing Nifong, by contrast, will be easy as cake by comparison. He's probably judgment-proof — meaning they're unlikely to ever collect anything from him, even if (or rather, when) they win — but the players and their families still have a strong motivation to see litigation against him through to judgment for reasons of principle — even if it's not, strictly speaking, an economically prudent decision.

Posted by Adjoran | June 18, 2007 11:09 PM

Beldar is exactly correct, which is hardly surprising.

Chances of success of lawsuits against the 88 faculty members weren't good. The ad was just vague enough to hide behind in a jury trial, and in that community the jury pool is rather sympathetic to the thoughts expressed in the ad.

Nifong probably won't lose his pension over this. In most state plans, you almost have to be caught stealing from the plan to lose benefits already earned, and even that isn't a cinch. His immunity for these specific acts of prosecution may be lost, though, depending on how far across the line a court rules his actions were.

Suing him for damages might feel good, but it's doubtful a career public prosecutor has the sort of assets which might justify the attempt.

Ray Donovan had a legitimate complaint when he asked, "Where do I go to get my reputation back?" But he was only found "not guilty" - the lacrosse three were pronounced "innocent" by the state AG, apparently are having their legal fees, future tuition, and probably a nice little nest egg besides paid for in compensation, while their persecutor has been disgraced, disbarred, and may be prosecuted. Nothing can undo their families' needless suffering over the last year or so, but they have been "completely exonerated" in as clear a fashion as is possible under our legal system.

Posted by NahnCee [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 18, 2007 11:39 PM

Can the three students sue Nifong's boss -- the city or the state or whoever's name is on the bottom of his paycheck -- if Nifong himself doesn't have deep pockets? And how about the Durham police department who did so many unethical procedural things?

Posted by Carol Herman | June 19, 2007 12:54 AM

Lucianne posted the article that Duke settled. And, someone who posts under the name Locklear? Posted that the settlement is for $10 million dollars, to each former student.

A number plucked out of a hat?

Also, today, the lead Judge in Nifong's case told him "it's over." The sheriff's been told not to let him approach his desk, t'marra.

Of course, Nifong's been at the public till for 30 years; he leaves with his pension, intact.

Does he also keep the Bubble of Immunity?

And, the real hero is the lawyer Bannon. Who took the 1500 pages of DNA evidence. Bought a textbook on DNA. And, sat down with the data, to learn what all the squiggles meant.

A friend of mine, an attorney said Bannon got expert help. But this expert help wasn't allowed in the courtroom.

So, someday, there will be better information available on how Nifong got undone. He didn't expect any courtroom dramatics. The accused kids turned out to be very lucky, though, in their choices of counsel. None better than Bannon.

If the settlement is $30 million dollars out of Duke's pocket, that's icing on the cake, for what they were facing.

Nifong used a woman who was mentally ill! He threatened that he was gonna take away her kids. Whether that was a worthy threat or not, I'll let you decide. But the night this dancer was certifiably nuts. Drunk and having a psychotic breakdown.

What happens to the coach that got fired? Just collateral damage?

What a strange brew of academics. And, a college president that still has his job.

Sure does put a lot of stuff out there, in perspective.

Posted by Mike | June 19, 2007 1:20 AM

No doubt Duke settled in large part to put this matter as much in the "old and settled news" category as possible. In this case, to get their idiotic gang of 88 off the hook, the payout would certainly have to be substantial. No doubt tonight there are 88 doctrinaire idiots panting heavily after dodging this particular bullet, and, one suspects, learning nothing at all. I'd scarcely be surprised to learn that they were partying, celebrating their victory over the forces of darkness. I suspect that the three lads and their attorneys have been more than compensated--financially--for all of their expenses to this point, and deservedly so. Other compensation, to be sure, can never be made.

In this mess, the three lacrosse players and their teammates remain the only people, compared with Duke, to have shown real maturity and class. In their acceptance announcement, the three victims were extraordinarily gracious and intelligent. Such qualities have not been in evidence in the Duke faculty and administration (with a few notable and little publicized exceptions).

While it may have been difficult to sue and prevail against each of the 88, Duke wisely realized that their faculty were culpable enough that lawsuits would cause years of trouble that no university could possibly afford. If the victims won judgement against only 10% of the 88, Duke may well have been on the hook for far more than the settlement, to say nothing of the horrendous damage that years of discovery, and resulting public exposure of systemic political correctness, bias and abuse would have caused to Duke's enrollment and bottom line.

The primary question now is has Duke learned anything? Does it want to retain people who, through their hateful, juvenile political posturing caused real and irreparable damage (God only knows what they get away with in the classroom)? Does Duke realize that when a university no longer serves as an institution of learning, but of indoctrination, this, and worse, is to be expected? Does it want to retain a President who not only allowed it to happen, but cheered it on, even worsened it through his treatment of the lacrosse team and its blameless coach?

A very big and destructive bullet was dodged here by adults who, belatedly, knew enough to dodge, even though the juveniles they continue to employ did not.

Posted by Carol Herman | June 19, 2007 1:48 AM

Mike, separate from Waltlear's sum of $10-million to each of the 3 students; I think Duke will deal with their wayward "88."

It ain't over. Because the kids who were accused of wrongdoing were INNOCENT. The school's got to advertise that.

And, they've got to tell parents where they "found" something like $30,000,000 to "give away" ... in order to settle a case they put themselves into.

That's about the size of it.

Whlle Nifong's Bar dismissal is now very public.

And, Duke has a law school reputation to protect. They don't need the best and the brightest students going elsewhere.

They also need to solve the problem they created by dismissing an innocent coach!

I'm not so sure the college president, Brodhead, (whose pulled a similar stunt, before, at Yale), isn't told to go. Somebody's gonna be held responsible for this big payout (settlement) to students.

At least you know the ballpark, if Waltlear is correct.

Posted by negentropy | June 19, 2007 6:27 AM

It would be nice for the judgment to include a free full-page ad in the same paper. Something like:

"What does an APOLOGY sound like?"
"The line begins to the left"

Posted by hermie | June 19, 2007 6:42 AM

I wonder how much value a Duke law degree has now, considering how the faculty and administration devalued the principle of innocent until PROVEN guilty?

Seems now, Duke University's motto should be 'The Ends Justify the Means'.

Posted by Corky Boyd | June 19, 2007 9:13 AM

Most certainly the settlement included a release for “the Duke 88”. There has always been a question of who actually paid for the ad. K.C. Johnson covered it early on and it appears it may have come from a departmental budget. If that were the case, and it would have come out during discovery, the university would have been liable.

No matter what some may say about Broadhead not paying the price personally, he presided over a multi-million dollar disaster. He presided over a PR disaster of monumental proportion. While he may survive this one, there will be no room for any more mistakes.

Posted by Cousin Dave | June 19, 2007 10:02 AM

What I'm wondering is, what about the City of Durham? Just wait until the lacrosse players lower the boom on the city. That will make the settlement with Duke look like lunch money. And how does the city get out of the bad publicity that will follow?

For that matter, how can the city residents who voted for Nifong possibly look at their own faces in the mirror in the morning? But, sigh, they probably haven't learned anything either.

Posted by MarkW | June 19, 2007 10:20 AM

I know that in cases like this, coaches are hired at will, and can be fired for any reason.

However, the way in which this coach was fired caused his reputation to be damaged.

I wonder if he would have cause to go against the university as well.

Might be worth a try, even if your case is weak. The university has put itself in a very bad spot p.r. wise. Any extra publicity is not something they want right now.

Posted by MarkW | June 19, 2007 10:27 AM

It's not just the three who were charged who have had their futures damaged. I remember reading about one lacrosse player who was a graduating senior. He had a job offer withdrawn when the scandal broke.