Duke Lacrosse Accuser Not Answering Investigators' Key Questions
“The woman who accused three members of the Duke University men's lacrosse team of sexual assault is not being forthcoming with special prosecutors, law enforcement sources close to the case tell ABC News.
“The accuser has met at least twice with prosecutors from the North Carolina attorney general's office, which took over the case from Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong in January.
“In those interviews, she gave incomplete answers when asked about the alleged assault and the events surrounding it, according to sources.”
“[S]everal [defense attorneys] acknowledged they were impressed with the thoroughness of the attorney general's investigation, noting that the special prosecutors had interviewed numerous lacrosse players and others with knowledge of the case.” John Stevenson, Herald Sun
“According to sources close to the team, the prosecution has questioned at least eight members of the lacrosse team to date -- students who attended the party but were not among those accused." ABC News
“A spokeswoman for the office of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper would not comment on the accuser's participation with the investigation.”
“AG Denies Accuser's Lack of Cooperation
The attorney general's office issued the following statement to ABC News:
"In discussions with our attorneys, the accuser has been cooperative in answering questions and providing information. More discussions are scheduled."
“The same law enforcement sources also said, however, that Kim Roberts, the second dancer who attended the March 2006 party, had also refused to speak with investigators and had said she would do so only if subpoenaed.
“Roberts has spoken to the media about the case, including doing an interview with ABC News' "Good Morning America."
“Although neither woman has been forthcoming up to this point, the sources stressed that this could change and that the accuser might still fully participate with investigators.
"In the coming weeks prosecutors will conduct further interviews with those involved in the case, leaving open the possibility that the accuser might say more about what she remembers from that night.”
“Nifong filed court papers saying that without "scientific or other evidence independent of the victim's testimony" to corroborate that aspect of the case, "the state is unable to meet its burden of proof with respect to this offense."
Further detracting from the reliability of the article, the final three of its four pages attempt to downplay Mangum's reported, then denied, uncooperativeness by suggesting that the false accuser’s reticence is an indication that she was assaulted. Without offering the more obvious conclusion that Ms. Mangum, faced with the prospect of having to reconcile her mutually exclusive alternate versions with equally contradictory physical, scientific, and medical evidence, as well as numerous credible witness statements, has decided to remain silent rather than further incriminate herself, Setrakian parades Leah Oettinger, a victim’s advocate formerly employed with the Durham Crisis Response Center, to ensure her readers that just because everything points to "nothing happened" it doesn't mean that nothing happened.
“Victims’ rights advocates told ABC News that it could take the accuser time to get comfortable with the new prosecutors, stressing that her level of participation could change. They also say it could be part of a fairly normal reaction to what’s been a highly abnormal case.
“She probably feels very beat up by the system. If you don’t have a sense of trust in the system, then you’re certainly not going to be forthcoming,” said Leah Oettinger, an advocate most recently with the Durham Crisis Response Center.
“Even just with the vicious attacks on the Web and her picture on TV. … The trauma, the lack of trust that anyone’s going to be there for you, fear of being alone — all of that could contribute to someone’s reluctance to talk.”
Oettinger, the victims’ rights advocate, said the mix of the media glare, which included attacks on the accuser’s credibility, could contribute to her reluctance to talk about an alleged crime.
“Oettinger said that the accuser’s changing recollection of that night did not necessarily make it less likely that an assault had taken place.
“[Assault victims] don’t clearly remember the event right away. It’s not unusual and it doesn’t mean they are lying,” Oettinger said.
“When people have been through a trauma — a car crash is a good analogy — it can take them time to reconstruct the facts in their minds. Plus, sexual assault is uncomfortable for anyone to talk about.”
Ms. Oettinger may not be the only one in need of a reminder. Perhaps someone should also remind Ms. Setrakian that effective journalism may require having an actual story.
I’ve got to tread lightly here. As a prosecutor I’ve worked with a number of advocates for the rights of crime victims, battered women, and other people who have had to live the horror of being the victim of crime. When the crime committed is rape or any other sexual assault, the victim advocates and counselors are often the ones who help the person make it through the rigors of the trial, and seeing that there is follow-up counseling.
In short they are invaluable resources not only to prosecutors and police, but most importantly, to the actual victims of the crime. I cannot imagine how tough it is to do that job, and how hard it is not to take your job home with you.
However, when I hear the comments of Leah Oettinger, an advocate most recently with the Durham Crisis Response Center, speaking about the Duke Lacrosse case, I often wonder if some of them don’t let their mission blind them to reality.
As pointed out in this story, the accuser in the case is not speaking to the new investigators assigned to look into the case. According to reports, she has given incomplete answers about what allegedly happened, and the events surrounding the night. The article does mention that some of the hesitation may be because she is uncomfortable with the new investigators, which could absolutely be true given the relationship that develops between an alleged victim and their advocates.
However, in this case, Ms. Oettinger refuses to concede that the reason the alleged victim may be uncooperative, and giving incomplete details is because of “the system”.
Ms. Oettinger, perhaps the first thing you should remember in being a victim’s rights advocate is to ensure that the person making the accusations is indeed a “victim” in the first place, and not just a flat out liar.