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Former lacrosse players settle suit against Duke

Only one lacrosse scandal lawsuit remains against Duke after a lawsuit filed by a group of 38 former lacrosse players was settled earlier this week.

The lawsuit, filed by members of the 2005-2006 men’s lacrosse team against the University, was settled out of court. The University and the former players notified a federal court in Durham of the settlement Wednesday. Now one lawsuit remains of the many filed against the University after three Duke lacrosse players were falsely accused of rape by exotic dancer Crystal Mangum in 2006. The accusation garnered national media attention, but charges were dropped after the accusations were proven false.

The more than 200-page lawsuit, originally filed by the players Feb. 21, 2008, included 31 counts of grievances related to the pursuit of false rape charges in 2006. It sought unspecified damages for emotional distress, fraud, negligence and other injuries allegedly inflicted by Duke and other officials. It was filed against the University and 28 other defendants, including President Richard Brodhead, Executive Vice President Tallman Trask, Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek, Provost Peter Lange and Victor Dzau, chancellor for health affairs and president and CEO of the Duke University Health System.

Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations, confirmed that the suit had been settled, but declined to provide additional comment on the settlement’s conditions.

Vice President and General Counsel Pamela Bernard and Bill Thomas, an attorney for the former lacrosse players, could not be reached for comment. Trask deferred comment to Schoenfeld, and Wasiolek declined to comment. Brodhead, Lange and Dzau could not be reached for comment.

The dismissal was filed “with prejudice,” so the 38 former players can never again sue Duke over the rape allegations and following events in 2006, The Herald-Sun reported.

“The players and their families take this historic action with great reluctance,” plaintiff attorney Charles Cooper said at a Feb. 2008 press conference. “They remain united in their determination to insist on the full truth and an accountability from Duke.”

The University originally claimed that the lawsuit was misdirected at Duke.

One lawsuit of many

Only one lawsuit against the University is still pending. Three former lacrosse players who were not indicted during the 2006 rape accusations—Ryan McFadyen, Trinity ’08, Matt Wilson, Trinity ’07 and Breck Archer—are the plaintiffs in a federal civil lawsuit against the University. Schoenfeld declined to comment on this lawsuit. Duke’s lawyers filed a motion Wednesday for U.S. District Court Judge James Beaty to narrow the remaining lawsuit, The Herald-Sun reported.

The still-pending lawsuit was filed in Dec. 2007 and originally included 45 defendants, including the University, the city of Durham, former Durham County district attorney Mike Nifong, the Durham Police Department and others. Accusations made by the plaintiffs included allegations of conspiring against Duke students and denial of a fair trial.

The initial lawsuit consisted of a more than 400-page complaint that was later amended in March 2008 by the players’ attorney Bob Ekstrand, Law ’98. Ekstrand could not be reached for comment.

The University hired former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick to assist in their defense, and Duke has attempted to dismiss the lawsuit.

The wrongly-indicted former lacrosse players—David Evans, Trinity ’06, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann—settled a lawsuit with the University for an undisclosed amount in June 2007. Seligmann, Finnerty and Evans were originally indicted with the rape of Mangum.

Mangum currently awaits trial for stabbing her boyfriend in 2011.

updated 12:30 a.m. March 1

Georgia Parke contributed reporting.

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