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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 April 2007, 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
US lacrosse 'abuse' case dropped
Prosecutor Mike Nifong
Prosecutor Mike Nifong is facing charges that he withheld evidence
Prosecutors have dropped all charges against three former students of a top US university in a sex abuse case whose racist overtones had shocked America.

The three white men, all members of Duke University's lacrosse team, in Durham, North Carolina, were accused of attacking a black woman at a party.

Rape charges were dropped in December but the three still faced accusations of kidnapping and sexual assault.

These were thrown out on Wednesday by North Carolina's attorney general.

Based on the significant inconsistencies between the evidence and the various accounts given by the accusing witness, we believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges
Roy Cooper
State attorney general

The BBC's Justin Webb, in Washington, says the charges had outraged many Americans, reminding them of the treatment of black people by privileged whites in years gone by.

Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans were accused of rape, kidnapping and sexual offence charges following a complaint from a 27-year-old student from another college that she had been sexually assaulted after being hired to perform at a Duke University party.

"Based on the significant inconsistencies between the evidence and the various accounts given by the accusing witness, we believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges," state attorney general Roy Cooper said.

The collapse of the case will lead to further dismay and soul searching, our correspondent says.

'Apologies owed'

The local prosecutor Mike Nifong, who once called the lacrosse players a bunch of hooligans, is facing trial on charges that he withheld evidence.

Later on Wednesday it is expected that the three accused will be formally told that they face no charges, leaving the local community and Duke University with the difficult task of accepting that this whole episode is over and should never have happened.

Mr Cooper said in an assessment of the case: "There were many points in the case where caution would have served justice better than bravado.

"I think a lot of people owe a lot of apologies to a lot of people... I think those people ought to consider doing that."

Mr Cooper said the charges against the three came from a "tragic rush to accuse and a failure to verify serious allegations".

One of the accused, David Evans, said he had been treated "like Hitler" by college mates, with his picture planted on posters accusing him of rape.


SEE ALSO
Rape charges dropped in Duke case
22 Dec 06 |  Americas
Bitter race and rape row grips Duke campus
15 Apr 06 |  From Our Own Correspondent

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