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Why the Duke case was closed

An accuser lacking any credibility, the absence of evidence of a crime, and a detailed timeline that corroborated the defendants'  stories led the North Carolina attorney general to dismiss all charges against the three Duke lacrosse players and declare them innocent, according to a new report.

In a 21-page summary of his investigation, released Friday, Attorney General Roy Cooper detailed how he concluded two weeks ago that a flawed probe by Durham prosecutors had led to the charges but that there was "no credible evidence that an attack occurred in that house that night."

Four pages of the report details a timeline that begins on the afternoon of March 13, 2006, when one team captain called an escort service to hire two dancers to entertain at a small bachelor party at the house. It portrays an accuser who is unsteady on her feet from the time she begins dancing just before midnight, sexual banter between some party-goers and one dancer, and some party-goers annoyed by an abbreviated performance.

It ends with the accuser in an emergency room and a nurse asking whether she had been raped. "The accusing witness answered in the affirmative. This was the first time she had indicated to anyone that she had been the victim of a sexual assault," the report concludes.

In a series of meetings with Cooper's staff during the past three months, "The accusing witness, when recounting the events of that night, changed her story on so many important issues as to give the impression that she was improvising as the interviews progressed, even when she was faced with irrefutable evidence that what she was saying was not credible," Cooper's report said.

She "attempted to avoid the contradictions by changing her story, contradicting previous stories or alleging the evidence had been fabricated" by Duke University or others, the report said.

For example, Cooper said, she told investigators she had arrived at the party at 11:10 p.m. and began dancing shortly thereafter. When shown time-stamped photos to the contrary, she "claimed the pictures had been altered."

On April 11, Cooper dismissed all charges against the three, Collin Finnerty, 20, of Garden City; Reade Seligmann, 21, of Essex Fells, N.J.; and David Evans, 24, of Bethesda, Md.

Cooper also pointed to severe flaws in the investigation by Durham County District Attorney Michael Nifong.

A severely flawed photo identification process alone, which led Nifong to seek indictments of the three, "would effectively have ended the case," the attorney general said.

John F. Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations at Duke University, said: "We welcome this report as we welcomed the attorney general's announcement on April 11. We now await the N.C. state bar's review of the charges against Mr. Nifong for his conduct in this case."

Nifong could not be reached Friday.

Among other evidence, the report found the accuser made seven new allegations in her interviews during the past few months, each contradicted by "verified and credible photographic, documentary and testimonial evidence."

They included a claim that she was not with the other dancer when a 911 call was made, that the two women left together at 11:50 p.m., and that two of the players threw her onto the back porch after the alleged assault.

How the Duke case went wrong

THE DANCER

During the time she said she was being beaten and raped, "in a video recorded at 12:31:26 a.m., she is talking to one of the party attendees saying 'I'm a cop' and making other comments which were difficult to understand," the report said.

Was unable to initially identify any attackers in several photo arrays of members of the team.

COLLIN FINNERTY

Had left the party before the time the woman claimed she was attacked. He walked to another house on Urban Street in Durham, meeting up with two friends by 12:27 a.m. They were soon joined by a third friend, and they all walked to a restaurant, Cosmic Cantina, where they ordered food and paid at 12:56 a.m.

READE SELIGMANN

Had ample evidence of his trip by taxi to a bank ATM, a take-out restaurant and his dormitory at times when the supposed attack was occurring. He got into a cab at 12:19 a.m. and was photographed at the ATM at 12:24 a.m.

DAVID EVANS

Could not have been alone with the dancer at any time, according to time-stamped photos and videotapes taken that night.

DA MIKE NIFONG

Never had an extended interview with the accuser. No one from his staff interviewed her until December.

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