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Defense calls on Nifong to drop all charges

Raleigh, N.C. -- Seven defense lawyers called on Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong to drop charges of kidnapping and sexual offense against three members of the 2005-2006 men's lacrosse team at a press conference Friday afternoon.

The statement came hours after Nifong filed to dismiss rape charges against David Evans, Trinity '06, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann.

"It is the ethical duty of the district attorney not to win the case, not to prosecute all cases, but to see that justice is done," said Joe Cheshire, defense attorney for Evans.

The remaining charges still carry significant weight, Cheshire said. "The case is quite clearly not over," he said.

Cheshire added that the only consistency in the alleged victim's story was that a penis was used in the assault, although the woman now says she cannot remember whether a penis was used or not.

The statement comes one week after the director of a private DNA testing lab said in court that he had withheld test results that indicated that genetic material from multiple male sources found in the alleged victim's body and underwear did not match any members of the lacrosse team.

"There is no scientific evidence independent of the victim's testimony that would corroborate any physical assault of any kind--sexual or otherwise--occurring to this woman," Cheshire said.

He called the timing of the release of the lab results and the dismissal of rape charges "transparent coincidences" because no DNA matching the players was found in the alleged victim's body.

"There's not a spider web of evidence supporting the allegations of Mr. Nifong," said Wade Smith, defense attorney for Finnerty. "We believe the prosecutor should do what is right and dismiss the cases."

The next pre-trial hearing is set for Feb. 5, when defense attorneys said they hope to win the motion to suppress the identification procedures used in the investigation.

"I'm more hopeful about the case being resolved without trial," Cheshire told The Chronicle Friday. "There will be no plea bargain. These three young men are completely and totally innocent of what they have been charged with."

Cheshire added that Nifong has refused to speak with him about the case for months. Nifong was not available for comment.

"All the prosecution has is the words of the false accuser," Cheshire said. "Whenever she opens her mouth, the story changes."

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