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Father of alleged Duke rape victim speaks out

'The Abrams Report' speaks with N.C. District Attorney about the case

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Duke Rape Investigation
The father of the alleged victim speaks out about his daughter's accusation that she was raped by members of the Duke lacrosse team. MSNBC-TV's Dan Abrams talks with Durham, N.C. District Attorney Mike Nifong.
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Dan Abrams
Host, "Verdict with Dan Abrams"

The father of the alleged victim in the Duke University rape investigation gave his first television interview Friday.  His daughter claims three members of the school's lacrosse team beat and raped her for 30 minutes at a party they were having at their off-campus house. 

The lawyers for the lacrosse players have come out swinging; one of them even saying the rape allegation may have been a setup. 

Durham district attorney, Mike Nifong joined Dan Abrams on 'The Abrams Report' to discuss the case.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

DAN ABRAMS, HOST, ‘THE ABRAMS REPORT’:  Let me just ask you about the status of the investigation.  I assume that the DNA results are not in yet.  Do you have any sense of when to expect those? 

MIKE NIFONG, DURHAM, NC DISTRICT ATTORNEY:  Well, there's really nothing that's changed about the status.  I have spoken with FBI evidence technicians, both yesterday and today, we are still, as far as I know, on schedule to receive those results back, probably towards the end of next week, but nothing to report along those lines right now.

ABRAMS:  Now, the police at the time had said, and this is in their effort to get DNA tests from the 46 of the 47 players, they said DNA tests would show conclusive evidence as to who the suspects are in the alleged violent attack upon this victim.  Do you stand by that comment? 

NIFONG:  Well, you have to understand how DNA is used.  Obviously the first step that is involved in DNA testing is determining whether or not there is any DNA evidence that is left with the victim that does not belong to her, and so the initial tests are to determine whether or not DNA foreign to the victim can be detected on the samples that are taken from her body. 

Now, if there is no DNA left, then there is obviously nothing to compare.  For instance, if a condom were used, then we might expect that there would not be any DNA evidence recovered from say a vaginal swab. 

ABRAMS:  But she would have told you, would she have not?  I mean you've spoken to her.  She would have said either they used condoms or they didn't. 

NIFONG:  Well, if you are being forced to have sex against your will, you may not necessarily notice whether or not somebody behind you is using a condom.  This was not a consensual sex situation.  This was a struggle, wherein she was struggling just to be able to breathe.  So I'm not sure that she would really have much way of knowing whether a condom was being used. 

Under any circumstances, the first step is to determine whether or not there is DNA that can be identified, foreign to the victim, and then once we get past that stage, we could then compare any DNA that was found.  Now obviously if there is a DNA match, then that's very strong evidence, but the absence of DNA doesn't necessarily mean anything other than no DNA was left behind. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  Because that's what I was going to ask you.  So the bottom line is if there is no DNA match in this case, you're saying that is not going to be the death nail for your case? 

NIFONG:  Well, you have to remember that DNA is a relative latecomer to the forensic scene.  There have been many successful rape prosecutions involving nothing more than the statement by the victim that she was raped by a particular individual. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

NIFONG:  Obviously, we would always prefer to have forensic corroboration for the victim's statement, but the fact is that we have enough to go forward any time that the victim identifies a particular person as the perpetrator of a sex crime against her. 

ABRAMS:  I want you to listen to Kerry Sutton, she's an attorney for one of the co-captains, Matt Zash.  We were also joined by another attorney for the another one of the co-captains who echoed these statements when I asked were they cooperating in the investigation?  

There has been the suggestion, D.A. Nifong that some of these people have not been cooperative.  Have they? 

NIFONG:  Well, you need to understand that Mr. Zash is one of the three young men who actually rented the 610 Buchanan address where this assault took place.  And those three young men did come down pursuant to an invitation from the police department, they did make written statements.  They listed the other people who were present.

They did voluntarily consent to having suspect kits taken.  So in that sense, those three young men were in fact cooperative.  Now, if they made statements that were not true during the course of this, then obviously to the extent that the statements were not true, that would not be cooperative. 

ABRAMS:  Is there anything you know for certain at this point that is not true? 

NIFONG:  Well, they denied that a sexual assault took place inside that residence, and the position that the state is taking is that that is not a true statement and I would go on to say that none of the other members of the team, other than these three have made statements to the police. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you, has there been an examination of any of the players, because the woman has said that she effectively tried to fight them off, that she broke off some of her nails in the process of grabbing someone's arm I guess it was.  You would think that the person involved in that would have marks on his arm if that were the case. 

NIFONG:  That's a possibility, and certainly we did investigate that particular possibility.  But let me point out that the evidence that she would present with respect to that particular situation is that she was grabbed from behind.  So that in essence, somebody had an arm around her like this, which she then had to struggle with in order to be able to breathe, and it was in the course of that struggle that the fingernails—the artificial fingernails broke off. 

Now as you can see from my arm, if I were wearing a shirt, a long-sleeved shirt or a Jacket of some sort, even if there were enough force used to press down, to break my skin through the clothing, there might not be any way that anything from my arm could get on to those fingernails.  So again, whether or not there would be any evidence would depend on exactly the situation.  Were the fingernails actually in contact with the skin or were they in contact with clothing?

ABRAMS:  Understood.  Another controversial issue has been this 911 call that was made presumably about an hour before the alleged assault occurred.  I'm going to play the 911-call and then I want you to listen to some of the comments made by one of the attorneys for one of the co-captains who seems to be suggesting this all might be a plan hatched by this woman to make a false allegation.  Let's start with the 911-call and the statement made by the attorney.

Mr. Nifong, so first on the issue of the possibility of walking by versus driving by, I mean, how significant is this 911-tape? 

NIFONG:  Well, first let me tell you that I have heard the tape and I have also heard the speculation that the tape might be in some way—or might contain false information.  That is not an issue that I really want to discuss right now.  Other than to say that as far as I'm concerned, it has no direct bearing on the situation about what happened inside. 

The allegation that I've heard that this is all some kind of a setup is quite an elaborate allegation, and I haven't heard any convincing circumstances being discussed about not only who would do such a thing, but why such an elaborate plan would have been discussed.  And whether or not the people that are supposedly involved were even capable of such an elaborate deception, but you have to understand that defense attorneys, their job is to cast doubt upon any evidence that casts their clients in a bad light so this is exactly what defense attorneys do when allegations are made against clients, which I might point out no one has yet been indicted or charged in this case.

ABRAMS:  Right.   What do you make of Mr. William’s statements?

NIFONG:  Well, again, I certainly one of the theories that I've heard is that the woman who was not inside was the person who made that call.  And again, I don't really intend to comment on any of that to the extent that any of that is relevant.  That is evidence that will be heard at trial.

ABRAMS:  Have you identified the person who made the 911-call?  

NIFONG:  To my knowledge I do not. 

ABRAMS:  OK.  So that person has not come forward to say I was the one who made the call. 

NIFONG:  To my knowledge, no one has done that yet.

ABRAMS:  How did she get to the party?  There's been talk about someone else having driven her to the party, in addition to the other woman who was going to be dancing with her, that there was some guy who supposedly had driven them to the party.  Any truth to that? 

NIFONG:  Well, you have to understand that these women did not know each other prior to this incident.  They arrived separately.  They did not know each other before.  They met each other for the first time that night, but any specifics other than that I don't really wish to go into at this time. 

ABRAMS:  And finally, in terms of the timing here, when would you expect a decision will be made as to whether charges will be filed? 

NIFONG:  I am hoping that I will have the information necessary to make that decision approximately two weeks from today.  That doesn't necessarily mean that decision will be announced on that day.  I would anticipate at some time having a press conference to announce what the decision would be.  I would not anticipate that that would occur any earlier than two weeks from today.

ABRAMS:  I’m going to play a piece of sound, this is from the other attorney, Kerry Sutton, who is laying out in unequivocal terms, their position that there was no sexual assault.  Here's what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUTTON:  My client certainly denies that he had sex of any kind with this alleged victim, and to his knowledge nobody at all at the house had sex with any of the women who were there. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  You are convinced that that is not true? 

NIFONG:  Well, I have no idea whether that's true about her client or not at this point.  It's obvious that if you have 40-some people at a party and it's alleged that three of those people had sex with the victim, then the vast majority of the people there did not have sex.  I also think that it's quite possible that at the time that they left the party, many of those people might not have been aware of what had occurred, although I think it is unlikely, given the closeness of the team's relationship that that would still be the case today.  But if you're asking me specifically, whether or not Ms. Sutton's client is telling the truth, I am not in a position to say that right now. 

ABRAMS:  Finally, are members of the team not being cooperative with the authorities?

NIFONG:  That again is a matter that you would have to comment on.  If somebody hires an attorney, and the attorney says, don't talk to the police, then obviously that is legal advice that you sought and you're probably going to follow. 

ABRAMS:  Understood. 

Watch the 'Abrams Report' for more analysis and interviews on the top legal stories each weeknight at 6 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV.


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