Duke Case: Treat Duke Three as Individuals and Give Due Credit
Yes, there were the deceived, the deluded, the naive and the wishful thinkers. But there also were evil persons who really knew better and promoted the Hoax as helpful to their personal/political agendas as well as people who realized that the Three were being railroaded but were afraid to blow the whistle.
For more than a year Brooklyn College History Professor Robert K.C. Johnson defended Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans (aka the Duke Three) against baseless rape, kidnapping and sexual assault charges, at his Durham-in-Wonderland website and elsewhere.
Yet his ABC News article title ("Exonerated Ex-Duke Players Don't Deserve Scorn") and subtitle ("Media's Harsh Treatment of Cleared Ex-Defendants Is Cold-Hearted at Best and Shameless at Worst") are more like damning the Duke Three with faint praise than depicting them as victims wrongly vilified by agenda-driven opportunists for whom the truth is to be used when helpful and disregarded when unhelpful.
Not scorning the Duke Three is not enough!
And some of the Hoax supporters were worse than shameless.
To think that all of the Hoax supporters were people of good will who simply were mistaken is ridiculous. Yes, there were the deceived, the deluded, the naive and the wishful thinkers. But there also were evil persons who really knew better and promoted the Hoax as helpful to their personal/political agendas as well as people who realized that the Three were being railroaded but were afraid to blow the whistle.
Each of the Three deserves great credit for dealing with his persecution with great dignity and each deserves to be treated as the individual he is instead of a caricature created to promote an agenda.
Professor Johnson is rightly distressed with the insistence of critics on misrepresenting the Three even after their exoneration by the North Carolina District Attorney's office.
All people of good will should be.
"The reaction from some major news organizations to this announcement was startling. While not challenging [Attorney General Roy] Cooper's actions, the Boston Globe labeled Evans, Seligmann and Finnerty 'louts.' Columnist Dan Shanoff called them 'douchebags.' The Washington Post clucked that the three players 'were not paragons of virtue,' and that 'some of the players — though not necessarily the three accused students — made racially derogatory remarks to the accuser and the other dancer who accompanied her.' (Actually, the second dancer, Kim Roberts, unequivocally stated that Evans said nothing derogatory to her, while Seligmann and Finnerty both proved they had left the party well before the racially charged argument occurred.)
"'Nightline' co-host Terry Moran told people not to 'feel sorry for the Dukies,' noting that 'they are very differently situated in life from, say, the young women of the Rutgers University women's basketball team,' and, 'there are many, many cases of prosecutorial misconduct across our country every year.'"
Newsweekreported the dismissal of the remaining charges in the Duke case with a characterization of the members of the 2005-2006 Duke University Men's Lacrosse Team as "some foolish and crude college boys [who] had hired two strippers and reaped nothing but shame" and described their ordeal as involving a "feeling of helplessness, or powerlessness" that "was lonely and isolating" and "maturing."
Dr. Johnson deemed such remarks "cold-hearted at best and shameless at worst."
I consider them carefully calculated to blunt the impact of the exposure of the grave danger posed by political correctness gone wild.
Professsor Johnson explained in some detail what Messrs. Seligmann and Finnerty were put through:
"Sophomores, they were immediately suspended from school. Their mugshots appeared on the cover of Newsweek under the guilt-implying headline 'Sex, Lies, and Duke.' Eighty-eight professors from their own institution signed an April statement asserting that something 'happened' to the accuser and saying 'thank you' to protesters who carried signs reading 'Castrate.' They were compared to Hitler by one cable TV commentator, who also speculated that their parents might have sexually abused them.
"In a May court appearance, Seligmann received death threats from members of the New Black Panthers. A July Washington Post column mocked the tall, lanky Finnerty — accurately described as a 'gentle giant' by one of his friends — as a 'disgusting' person who took 'fun in tormenting the innocent.'
"In an April 20, 2006, appearance before the local Chamber of Commerce, Duke president Richard Brodhead said, 'If they didn't do it, whatever they did is bad enough.'"
For sophomore scholar-athletes, that, plus being prosecuted by a rogue prosecutor intent on sending them to prison for thirty years on baseless charges, was a horrendous experience that the politically correct zealots try to minimize with carping or "fantastic lies."
Professor Johnson: "Seligmann and Finnerty are two students who have borne an unimaginable burden over the past year, but retained faith that justice would prevail. Both spent their time away from school working with high school students; both have publicly expressed hope that their case will trigger reforms in the North Carolina criminal justice system to protect wrongfully accused people in the future."
Yet they are still targets of the sanctimonious political correctness zealots.
Professor Johnson: "What, exactly, did Seligmann and Finnerty do? They attended a spring break party they had no role in organizing and they drank some beer. That's enough to be condemned as 'louts' or 'douchebags' or racists?"
Of course not.
It was a stripper party, for which the co-captain hosts bear much more responsibility than simple attendees, but the politically correct zealots are not castigating everyone who ever watched a stripper and stripping, hiring strippers and watching strippers are all legal in North Carolina and the party was off-campus.
It appears that Messrs. Seligmann and Finnerty learned from their experience of attending that party and then being subjected to what Professor Johnson called "the highest-profile case of prosecutorial misconduct in modern American history" and "months of public assaults on their character from journalists or professors for whom their case provided an opportunity too tempting not to exploit."
The truth is that Messrs. Seligmann and Finnerty (as well as co-captain and co-host David Evans) became human sacrifices on the altar of political correctness.
The New York Times treatment of the Duke case was either contemptible or beneath contempt, but not everyone connected to The Times went along.
Kudos to Nicholas Kristof and Peter Applebaum.
Professor Johnson: "As New York Times columnist Peter Applebome recently asked, 'How did college kids with no shortage of character witnesses become such a free-fire zone for the correct thinkers in academia, the news media and the socially conscious left?'"
They won what the families of the members of the 2005-2006 Duke University Men's Lacrosse Team called "the Crystal lottery."
False accuser Crystal Gail Mangum is either deluded or evil.
What about the political correctness zealots who subjected the Duke Three to what United States Supreme Court Justice might call "a hi-tech lynching"?
Messrs. Seligmann and Finnerty were at Duke and on the Duke University Men's Lacrosse Team on merit, and they deserved to be permitted to continue their studies and lacrosse instead of to be falsely accused, wrongfully indicted and suspended under the circumstances.
"It's worth remembering...that while Evans has graduated, Seligmann and Finnerty — good students and talented Division I athletes — continue to reap the fruits of Nifong's misconduct. For reasons of personal safety, if nothing else, they cannot return to a city where Nifong remains chief prosecutor or to a University where so many prominent people vilified them. So, as of now, neither knows where they will attend school next year.
"Their uncertain situation presents an opportunity for academic leaders to help rectify the injustice the two have experienced at the hands of the media and professors at Duke."
Princeton University has never accepted transfers. If it ever will, now would be a fine time to start, by inviting Messrs. Seligmann and Finnerty (and vastly improving Princeton's chance for a national lacrosse championship in 2008).
To be sure. Messrs. Seligmann and Finnerty are human (and apparently never claimed otherwise).
They deserve admiration for surviving their ordeal the way they did, and the unrepentant political correctness zealots deserve the scorn.
If their critics had a fraction of their character, we'd all be better for it.
Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.
Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.
The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.
Gaynor currently contributes regularly to www.MichNews.com, www.RenewAmerica.com, www.WebCommentary.com, www.PostChronicle.com and www.therealitycheck.org and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.