Duke lacrosse accuser Crystal Mangum broke a lengthy media silence Thursday, releasing a memoir today and maintaining that she was assaulted at a party in March 2006.
In a press conference at the Know Bookstore & Restaurant near North Carolina Central University, Mangum-accompanied by Vincent Clark, her agent and co-author of the book, "The Last Dance for Grace"-spoke briefly and took questions from the three dozen reporters packed into the venue before being whisked away.
"This is very difficult for me, but this is something that I have to do," a subdued and sometimes tearful Mangum said. "God has given me the grace and the courage to stand up. No one deserves to be sexually assaulted, regardless of their profession."
And later, during a question-and-answer period, Mangum said she maintained that she had been sexually assaulted while performing as an exotic dancer at a March 13, 2006 party at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd.
She refused to discuss other specific questions about the case. Mangum declined to answer questions about whether she believes the three former members of the men's lacrosse team indicted in the case were innocent or when and how often she met with disgraced former Durham district attorney Mike Nifong, saying these issues were "not really relevant now."
"No one has ever offered to take a statement by me that came from me," she said. "I had to write the book for closure. In order to go on with my life I need to use my experience and what I've learned to help other people. I don't mind being sort of a sacrifice in order to help others as long as I can share my experiences in a positive way."
Even as Mangum insisted that a sexual assault did occur, Clark said his team-which also includes Michael Denisoff and Myra Shird, both project consultants-accepted N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper's decision to drop charges, although he questioned the legal basis for it.
"It is final on that matter," he said. "Crystal and I both believe in the rule of law and could not abide by anyone being wrongly accused and put on trial."
Professor of Law Thomas Metzloff said Mangum is theoretically open to civil suits for wrongful prosecution, but is unlikely to be sued because she does not have the means to make a large payoff. Sales success for the memoir could change that, though.
"I suppose if it turns into a New York Times bestseller, you certainly could [sue her]," Metzloff said. "You could have libel and slander claims. When she doesn't leave it alone, I'm sure there's some frustration to have it come up again. I hope it doesn't stir others to reopen it. There's enough going with the lawsuits that we don't need this too."
Although some said the book's publication could draw criticisms of profiteering off a false accusation, Clark and Mangum both said they did not publish the book to make money. Clark added that by his estimates, the book would have to sell about 50,000 copies to break even, and that he and Denisoff have worked on the project pro bono.
Clark provided excerpts from the book to the media ahead of the event, including an introduction by himself and two chapters.
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In the memoir, written in a raw and honest style but often peppered with typos, Mangum says she felt compelled to tell her story in the face of what she felt were misrepresentations.
"When I spoke, I was accused of changing my story repeatedly," she wrote. "I emphasize now that the story has never changed. The fact is I did not make it to court to state my case because the focus became one of discrediting me and exposing my personal life instead of finding the truth. So I am left to defend myself."
In the first excerpted chapter of the book, Mangum tells of being raped by a boyfriend at age 14 and of a 1993 gang rape in Creedmoor.
As reports revealed in May 2006, Mangum initially pressed charges in the case, but charges were dropped when she failed to follow up with police. Her father told media in 2006 that no rape had occurred.
Much of the press conference was dominated by Clark, a former columnist for the Chapel Hill News who runs fire! Films and Books and published the book. Clark railed against the media circus that he said dragged Mangum through the mud.
Clark said he hopes to see the Durham community move on and leave the case alone.
"Let her continue her life, stop the constant blogs," he said. "Sadly, we have come to a standstill in the healing process. No one seems to be able to tune out the still-constant blogs. Forget the newspaper columnists, disregard the radio talk-show hosts, disregard the talking heads on the cable TV shows."
He also accused CNN and NBC, among other outlets, of refusing to run interviews with Mangum when they found her to be a put-together college student.
"I have talked on the record with hundreds of reporters," Clark said. "Not one was willing to come to class with Crystal, not one was willing to come to church with Crystal."
Several reporters engaged Clark in a heated exchange after the press conference, saying they would have been more than happy to interview Mangum if given the chance.
Mangum has not spoken to the media since granting an interview to The (Raleigh) News & Observer shortly after the party in spring of 2006.
Mangum, who graduated from NCCU in May, said she hopes to enroll in a Ph. D. program at the University of Georgia and later open a home for troubled young women.