David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

…And Justice for Some

60 Minutes asked the mother of accused Duke lacrosse player David Evans the other day what she would say to District Attorney Mike Nifong if he were in the room. Quoth Ms. Evans: “I would say with a smile on my face, ‘Mr. Nifong, you’ve picked on the wrong families… and you will pay every day for the rest of your life.'”

The news networks are practically slobbering all over the floor about this story. Newsweek just ran a piece on accused Duke lacrosse player Reade Seligmann that borders on the hagiographic. FOX News is swaggering all over it with outrageously biased headlines (“Duke Lacrosse ‘Rape’ Accuser Changes Story Again, Says Seligmann Didn’t Touch Her,” “Judge in Duke ‘Rape’ Case Orders Paternity Test for Accuser’s Baby”).

Reade Seligmann
David Evans
Colin Finnerty

(BTW, you can tell you’re on to something when the right-wing media starts hauling out the belittling quotation marks. She’s a “rape” accuser, much like Massachusetts legalized gay “marriage” and Al Gore made a movie about “global warming.”)

So here’s the thing: what if this exotic dancer did get assaulted that night?

Okay, okay: she’s a wacked-out druggy that hangs out on a stripper pole. She can’t keep her story straight, she seems to have slept with half of the state, and she certainly doesn’t seem to have the best motives for bringing this thing forward. After all that’s happened, she may be the least credible courtroom witness since Captain Queeg.

But does that mean she didn’t get assaulted? Does that mean she doesn’t deserve to have her case investigated? Does that mean she should be hounded at every turn by journalists? This is a person, for fuck’s sake. I don’t care how skanky the woman is; if she comes forward with a credible complaint, then our system of legal justice is supposed to be on her side.

People have jumped all over this woman’s inconsistencies and concluded that her story is wildly improbable. But is it, really?

No. Not at all. Picture this:

Coked-up erotic dancer gets hired to do a striptease/toy show at some local fraternity for a couple hundred bucks. Erotic dancer arrives, stoned out of her mind, her and the other dancer do their striptease thing. She’s so out of it she can barely walk. The whole place is just a blur of rich white boys leering at her, it’s dark, there’s lots of loud music playing. She wanders around afterwards, drinking beers that the boys are handing her, enduring the occasional ass grab and maybe grabbing an ass or two in return. She blanks out near the bathroom, a couple of the guys help her in there because they think she might puke. She falls to the floor in front of the toilet, thinking she’s going to throw up, and passes out again. The kid behind her sees grade-A exotic dancer pussy being thrust in his face and yanks down her underwear. The boys hoot and holler and take turns poking her with their fingers and miscellaneous plastic objects they find around the bathroom. After all, they’re drunk off their asses too, and man, this shit is funny. Finally she comes to and they help her to her feet. Things are hazy, she can’t tell what’s going on, but she knows that those aren’t her hands up her skirt. She feels sore in places where she shouldn’t feel sore. Suddenly one of the senior frat members opens the bathroom door, says, c’mon guys, what the fuck are you doing? Get that bitch out of here before you get us in trouble. The boys momentarily come to their senses, think, shit, he’s right. They straighten her out, put her underwear back on, and walk her back to the party. They’ve only been gone for five or six minutes. The senior frat member pulls the second exotic dancer over, says, you’d better get her out of here, she’s a mess. Thirty seconds later, they’re gone. The front door closes, the senior drags the boys into a corner and says, you didn’t fuck her, did you? That’s rape, assholes, you can go to jail for that shit. One of the boys says, are you fuckin’ crazy? We don’t want to get AIDS. We were just playin’ around. Senior: Jesus. She’s okay, right? No harm done? You didn’t hurt her or anything? Boys: no, no, I think she’s okay. It was like the fuckin’ Lincoln Tunnel down there. She probably fucked three or four guys before she even got here. Senior: You fuckin’ idiots. Fine. Just keep this quiet, no harm done. Nobody else saw you, right? We could get expelled for this shit. Three teenagers: no, no, don’t worry about it. We’re cool.

That scenario? Totally plausible. There are a thousand variations you could come up with. I’d venture a guess that this exact thing happens at least every weekend somewhere in this country. I’m sure just about anyone who’s ever attended a college fraternity party can say that they either witnessed something like this or heard about it second-hand.

And guess what? That’s called sexual assault. I don’t care if the woman was drugged to the gills. I don’t care if she’s an exotic dancer and a slut and she leered at you in a way that made you think she gave you permission to grope. I don’t care if she did fuck the whole Yale lacrosse team at another gig earlier that night. It’s sexual assault, and it deserves to be prosecuted.

Let me be frank: personally I don’t believe this woman’s story. Personally I think that she’s either not telling the truth, or she’s so muddled about the details that there’s no way any DA is going to get a prosecutable case out of it. If she is telling the truth, then I suspect she collared three boys at random because she couldn’t remember what they looked like. (Those white, upper-crust fraternity kids all look the same, don’t they?) So I’m certainly glad that Reade Seligmann, Colin Finnerty, and David Evans are all being assumed innocent until proven guilty.

But you and I don’t get to make the decision about whether this erotic dancer is telling the truth. Neither do FOX News, CNN, the Post, the Times, the bloggers, or the pundits. These decisions are for a public prosecutor and, ultimately, a judge and jury to decide. We’ve got a system in place for this, people.

Unfortunately, that system isn’t working for people like the Duke lacrosse fraternity erotic dancer. The district attorney’s office seems to be handling this case with a solid helping of ineptitude seasoned with election-year politics and a sprig of racial bias as garnish. If this woman is telling the truth — and again, that’s absolutely, utterly, completely, 100% plausible with marshmallows and a cherry on top — then DA Mike Nifong has pretty much assured that the ones responsible will never face any criminal penalties for it.

So maybe this woman is a lying sack of shit. Maybe she isn’t.

But what about the women who have really endured assaults like this? What about all the ones whose cases don’t get thrown onstage with the hungry tigers in the media circus? What about the women who slink away in embarrassment, assuming that they probably did give their rapists permission while in a drugged stupor? What about the district attorneys who listen to the victims’ stories with a skeptical ear and decide not to pursue the matter because they know they’ll never get a credible witness on the stand?

What happens to them?

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  1. Rachel on January 13, 2007 at 11:00 am  Chain link

    Finally, somebody smart enough to see through the defense team spin. We still have yet to hear wht the hell happened that night from any of these men. The whole she went in the bathroom and painted her fingernails line is just absurd.

  2. Brian on January 13, 2007 at 12:02 pm  Chain link

    Nice touch. Very heart rendering- but you ignore too many of the kown facts to “spin” it your way. You also ignore the DA’s political agenda and his criminal acts. No matter what happens here justice will not be served. The only one likely to do prison time is the DA. He will also bear the brunt of and financial devastation from countless civil lawsuits. He will never be able to practice law again. The accusers life hopefully will turn for the better but history and human nature say otherwise. Duke University’s reputation will forever be tarnished. Tarnished not because this happened but over the way it handled the situation and allowed its Faculty to behave. The accused and their families are suffering but they will survive and be stronger for enduring this horrible lie. The justice system itself has also received a black eye that will taint future (real) rape victims ability to come forward.

  3. David Louis Edelman on January 13, 2007 at 4:50 pm  Chain link

    Brian: Not necessarily trying to spin anything. Just pointing out that, contrary to what most media reports would have you believe, it’s entirely possible that this woman’s not lying.

    My feeling is that the facts will probably vindicate the Duke lacrosse players in the end. But these facts should be coming out in a courtroom, not on CNN Headline News.

    The justice system itself has also received a black eye that will taint future (real) rape victims ability to come forward.

    Amen to that.

  4. Wayne B on January 14, 2007 at 11:53 am  Chain link

    The phrase “Tried in the court of public opinion” comes to mind. I didn’t really follow this story very much just like I don’t follow any stories the media trumps up. Sure its bad if the woman got assaulted and its also just as bad if three boys are falsely accused. But none of that is anybodies business but theirs.

    The legal system is suppose to decide innocence and guilt from a neutral perspective based on evidence. People have a tendency to fuck that up and the media takes it to new extremes. AFTER a court case is over and done with the media might have a role. But not before when they can influence the jury, attorney’s and judges.

  5. tommyspoon on January 16, 2007 at 12:47 pm  Chain link

    I couldn’t watch the “60 Minutes” piece because I felt it was in really poor taste for those families to be on in the first place. Listen folks, nobody really wants to hear about how your precious little babies were picked on by the big bad judicial system. They hired the strippers and something went wrong in that house on that night. We may never know what it was, but something made that woman go to the police in the first place.

    I wouldn’t be so proud of your little babies. A dose of humility would make y’all look a helluva lot better.

  6. Sindee on January 22, 2007 at 8:28 pm  Chain link

    Oh please fucking grow up you candyass!

    You do not have the expectation of getting blitzed out of your mind and then expect to not have your ass fucked with…

    Personally I think all of the stupid bitches who got fucked in that fashion did, in fact, ask for it because it isn’t clear what else they should have expected.

    Life is tough , dangerous and will bone you up the ass if you turn your back (or get coked up) on it.

    Deal with it.

    Durham has no shortage of whores, none of us here are going to miss this one when she finally OD’s or ends up in prison.

  7. David Louis Edelman on January 22, 2007 at 9:32 pm  Chain link

    Sindee: If you walk through a bad neighborhood in the middle of the night and get robbed, you’re asking for it too. Doesn’t mean the police shouldn’t prosecute the dude that held you up at gunpoint and stole your wallet.

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