Three current and former Duke lacrosse players—but not the ones indicted in a discredited rape case—sued the university, a disgraced prosecutor and dozens of others Tuesday, claiming the prosecution damaged them, too.
Ryan McFadyen, Matthew Wilson and Breck Archer accuse the defendants of pursuing the case despite evidence the allegations were false.
The 389-page lawsuit, filed in federal court in Greensboro, names 45 defendants who include Mike Nifong—the former Durham district attorney who was disbarred for misconduct in the case—police investigators, city officials and nurses who examined the accuser.
The plaintiffs, who allege negligence, fraud and conspiracy, accuse Nifong of pursuing the criminal charges for political gain amid a closely contested Democratic primary.
The players seek unspecified damages.
“Duke University reasonably relied on the statements of a prosecutor whose path of destruction could be stopped only by the North Carolina attorney general,” the statement read, noting that Duke has offered to reimburse the attorneys’ fees and expenses of players who weren’t indicted.
McFadyen, Wilson and Archer were members of the lacrosse team when three other players were indicted after a black woman told police she was raped at a March 2006 team party where she was hired as a stripper.
The men were among 46 of the team’s 47 members who complied with a judge’s order to provide DNA samples and be photographed. The team’s sole black member was not tested because the woman said her attackers were white.
Duke suspended McFadyen amid the criminal investigation for an e-mail he sent shortly after the team party in which he described how he would kill and skin strippers, according to court documents. Administrators later reinstated McFadyen, noting that his remarks were “in jest” and a takeoff from “American Psycho,” a novel by Bret Easton Ellis made into a movie about a serial killer.
The lawsuit includes an allegation that authorities put the e-mail’s contents in a search warrant application, knowing it would be public record, but deleted previous messages in the same string that showed McFadyen was joking.