Thursday, February 21, 2008

Duke LaCrosse players sue University and the city

RALEIGH, N.C. — More than three dozen current and former Duke lacrosse players claim in a lawsuit they suffered emotional distress during the furor over the now-discredited rape case against three of their teammates.

Attorneys planned to file a federal lawsuit Thursday in North Carolina that accuses Duke University, the City of Durham and several school and police officials of fraud, abuse, and breach of duty for supporting the prosecution of the case.

Lead attorney Chuck Cooper said the private university turned its back on the players to protect the school's image.

"This lawsuit is born out of Duke and Durham's sustained wrongdoing and callous conduct against the players," Cooper said while announcing the lawsuit at a news conference in Washington, D.C.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of 38 unindicted players and nine members of their families seeks unspecified damages for invasion of privacy, emotional distress and other injuries.

The players accuse Duke of ignoring, suppressing and discrediting evidence that proved the players innocence, of idly standing by while the players suffered abuse and harassment on campus, and of imposing discipline that implied the team was guilty. Duke suspended and then canceled the highly ranked team's season in the wake of the rape allegation.

Pamela Bernard, Duke's vice president and general counsel, said the families declined a university offer to cover the cost of any attorneys' fees or other out-of-pocket expenses.

"We have not yet seen the lawsuit, but if these plaintiffs have a complaint, it is with Mr. Nifong," Bernard said. "Their legal strategy _ attacking Duke _ is misdirected and without merit."

Cooper said compensation for expenses was inadequate.

Durham interim City Attorney Karen Sindelar did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment Thursday.

Former Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong won indictments against Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann after a woman accused them of raping her at a team party in March 2006. The case unraveled amid the woman's changing story and lack of evidence.

The three players were later declared innocent and also have sued the former prosecutor, the City of Durham and the police detectives who handled the case. They reached an undisclosed financial settlement with the university in June.

Nifong was disbarred and spent a night in jail for his handling of the case. Cooper said he is not named in the lawsuit because of his pending declaration of bankruptcy. Nifong is claiming more than $180 million in liabilities, almost all tied to the prospect of losing two other lawsuits stemming from the rape case.

Three other players filed a lawsuit last year, accusing the school, Nifong and numerous others of a conspiracy that inflicted emotional distress

Monday, February 11, 2008

Opinion: Obama;s Bradley Effect (for political junkies loving what;s happening)

Obama's Bradley Effect?

By Robert D. Novak
Monday, February 11, 2008; A13

Washington Post

Which Democrat won Super Tuesday? Thanks to the Democratic Party's proportional representation, it is not easy to say a week later. Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama ran to a virtual dead heat for the delegates at stake in 22 states that were clearly stacked in Obama's favor. But the way Obama lost California raises the specter of the dreaded "Bradley effect."

Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, an African American Democrat, unexpectedly lost his 1982 campaign for governor. His defeat came as voters told pollsters that they preferred the black candidate and then voted the other way. In California's primary last Tuesday, Obama lost by a landslide 10 percentage points despite one late survey showing him ahead by 13 points and two others giving him a one-point lead.

Was this presumed 20-point reversal caused by the Bradley effect, which has worried Democratic leaders since Obama became an obstacle to Clinton's majestic procession to the Oval Office? It is much too early for that conclusion, but the subject is on the minds and is coming up in private comments of Democratic politicians pondering the stalemate for the party's presidential nomination.

Other than an alarming racial gap separating supporters of the two candidates, Obama escaped from Super Tuesday without obvious damage. Clinton's capture of California, New York and New Jersey gave her the big states contested that day, except for Obama's home state of Illinois. Under Republican winner-take-all rules, her wins would have put her on the way to the nomination. Instead, Obama finished with a 13-delegate edge out of the 1,681 delegates that were on the line.

That is bad news for Clinton, who now faces a temporary drought. The next three weeks belong to Obama, with nearly all the states likely to be decided in his favor, culminating in Wisconsin on Feb. 19. Clinton's strategists have spread the word not to worry because of Texas and Ohio, two big states presumably favorable to Clinton, on March 4. With its large Hispanic vote, Texas looks good for Clinton, but Ohio is less certain.

But proportional representation rears its head. Obama strategists privately concede probable defeat in those two big states but forecast losing their delegate competition by only 174 to 160, a pitifully small margin of 14. The Obama team's projection of the delegate count after all the primaries have been held shows Obama with 1,647 and Clinton with 1,580 -- both short of the 2,025 needed for nomination. (This confidential information was accidentally e-mailed to Bloomberg News, which published it.) The issue could be settled by unelected, unpledged superdelegates or by a credentials fight over Florida and Michigan, which were stripped of their delegates for scheduling their primaries too early.

The prospect of going into a convention with the nominee unknown for the first time since 1952 upsets Democratic insiders not merely because of the uncertainty. Splitting the party along ethnic and racial lines is troubling -- especially in California, where massive Latino support for Clinton canceled out Obama's base among blacks.

However, disbelief that their voters harbor racial prejudices leads Democrats to reject speculation that those voters lied to pollsters in claiming to support Obama. The Zogby poll that showed a big Obama lead in California, and the Suffolk and Rasmussen surveys giving him a narrow edge, it is argued, were just plain wrong. It is also claimed that the state's final tally was skewed by an unexpectedly low African American turnout.

But briefings on exit polls early Tuesday evening, the product of nonpartisan technicians, cautioned listeners not to be carried away by favorable Obama numbers around the country because his actual performance often is overstated by exit polls. (Indeed, contrary to early exit poll signals of an Obama upset in New Jersey, Clinton carried the state comfortably.) No explanation was given for this aberration, but many listeners presumed it was the Bradley effect.

As much as the Democratic stalemate delights the news media, worried party leaders still hope that Clinton or Obama will break away in the popular vote before the party convenes in Denver late in August, even if neither achieves a majority of delegates.

Howard Dean, who was elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee after the 2004 elections in a rare manifestation of internal party democracy, let it be known that he would be happy to mediate between the two candidates and pick a nominee in March or April. It was occasion for laughter in both the Clinton and Obama camps.

¿ 2008 Creators Syndicate Inc.