Duke Lacrosse Scandal
The Duke Lacrosse scandal was much more than a typical athlete scandal. It was a circus. The scandal even landed a prosecutor in jail after the accused were declared innocent.
The Duke University Lacrosse team hired a crew of strippers for a party on the night of March 13th, 2006. One of the strippers complained to the police that she was sexually assaulted that night. The dancer, an African American woman, said that team members strangled, sodomized and raped her after shouting racial slurs at her. Law enforcement officials subsequently performed DNA tests on the 40-plus members of the Duke Lacrosse team. Underage drinking was also noted at the party. Three students were arrested on charges of rape and kidnapping.
Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong prosecuted the three men and made public statements to the media about the rape. Nifong continued to make public accusations as time went on and contrary evidence mounted. When DNA tests declared all parties innocent, Nifong buried this evidence in court.
The Duke Lacrosse scandal made headlines for many months as the case progressed. Duke University students and community members protested the lacrosse team for rape. Newspaper columnists commented about campus rape culture for the better part of 2006. The media circus continued until it became very clear by the end of the year that the students were innocent. This is when the Duke Lacrosse scandal pulled a complete 180 degree turn.
A state bar association panel accused Nifong of inflammatory statements and obstruction of justice in January, 2007. Nifong immediately resigned and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper took over the case. Cooper announced at an April 11th, 2007 press conference that the three accused students were in fact innocent. Mike Nifong lost his law license and served a sentence of 24 hours in jail. He could have served a maximum of 30 days.