DA: Alleged Rape May Have Racial Angle

Monday, March 27, 2006

Durham's district attorney is speaking very candidly about what could happen to anyone charged in the alleged gang rape at a party last week.

"In this case, where you have the act of rape - - essentially a gang rape - - is bad enough in and of itself, but when it's made with racial with racial epithets against the victim, I mean, it's just absolutely unconscionable," said District Attorney Mike Nifong.

Investigators say several members of the Duke lacrosse team made the racial slurs to the two black women hired to dance at the house party.

"The contempt that was shown for the victim, based on her race was totally abhorrent," Nifong said. "It adds another layer of reprehensibleness, to a crime that already reprehensible."

Nifong tells Eyewitness News that he may consider adding hate crimes to any other potential charges if investigators determine the victim was targeted because of her race.

For now, investigators and the district attorney's office are focusing on identifying the suspected attackers, who could be charged with first-degree rape and first-degree sexual offense.

"I don't think you can classify anything about what went on as a prank that got out of hand or drinking that took place by people who are underage," Nifong said.

He may also consider charging other players for not coming forward with information.

"My guess is that some of this stonewall of silence that we have seen may tend to crumble once charges start to come out," Nifong said.

As of Monday, Nifong said no player has contacted him with new information. Swabs containing the DNA taken from 46 players last Thursday arrived at the SBI lab Monday afternoon. Results are expected back next week. Nifong says he will not file any charges until results are in.

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