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Eight years ago, the campus of Duke University was engulfed in scandal. A black woman, who was not a Duke student, accused three white members of the lacrosse team of sexually assaulting her. The story brought to the fore the thorny issues of race, class and gender, and a media firestorm ensued. But it didn’t stop there—the scandal involved prosecutorial misconduct and a divisive debate on campus over the culture at Duke. In his new book, “The Price of Silence”, journalist and Duke alumnus William Cohan re-examines the complex events of the case. And he asks what it says about the power of sports at our nation’s colleges and universities.
- William Cohan contributing editor at Vanity Fair, opinion columnist for Bloomberg View, former investment banker and author of "The Price of Silence" and "Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World."
Read An Excerpt###
Excerpted from THE PRICE OF SILENCE: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities by William Cohan, published on April 8, 2014 by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Printed with permission.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. When we hear the words Duke lacrosse, many of us remember 2006 when three members of the team were accused of sexual assault. Despite the overwhelming media attention the case received and the public debate it sparked, author and Duke alum William Cohan says many questions went unanswered.
MS. DIANE REHMHe joins me in the studio to talk about his new book. It's titled "The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities." If you'd like to be part of the program, give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. William Cohan, it's good to see you.
MR. WILLIAM COHANIt's great to be back here again, Diane.
REHMThank you. You're a Duke alum, and you've gone back and written a 600-page book here. Why'd you decide to go back and look at this case again?
COHANWell, Diane, so, you know, I spent 17 years on Wall Street. And in the last 10 years, I've written three bestselling books about Wall Street. The easiest thing for me to do would have been to just write another book about Wall Street. That's what I think my publisher wanted me to do, and things like that.
COHANBut I decided that I had too many open questions in my mind about what happened at my alma mater, which I love, about what happened during this incident between March of 2006 when the party occurred and April 2007 when Roy Cooper, the attorney general of the state of North Carolina, declared these boys innocent. I wanted to know what happened. There was no trial in this case. I wanted this book to serve as the trial that never happened.
REHMTell me about whom you were able to speak with early on.
COHANSo, you know, that's a very interesting question. It shouldn't be. But it is, and the name of the book is "The Price of Silence." I was able to speak to people who had never spoken before about this, like Mike Nifong. Everybody wanted to talk to Mike Nifong in 2006, in 2007.
REHMAnd remind us who he was.
COHANHe was the Durham district attorney that decided to prosecute this case. You know, viewers have to -- or listeners have to remember that this was the Flight 370, this was the Bridge Gate of 2006. I mean, this was major league media attention on this case, around the clock, and people like Mike Nifong, you know, said a lot at the beginning and then were silent. This is the first time he's spoken about this case since then.
REHMAnd you also talked with Robert Steel, chair of the Duke Board of Trustees?
COHANYes, after Duke University, my alma mater, told him not to talk to me, tried to silence him. But he courageously wanted his version of this story out. He wanted to say what had happened here. And he was more than happy to talk to me.
REHMBut, you know, it's interesting. You begin the book not with lacrosse but with basketball at Duke. How come?
COHANWell, because, when it comes to Duke, I think everybody recognizes that the premiere religion at Duke is Duke basketball -- Mike Krzyzewski, you know, the greatest college coach of all time. And it starts -- the book starts in June of 2004 when the new president of Duke, Dick Brodhead, gets to Duke. It's even -- he's supposed to start July 1, but he actually shows up at the end of June, unpacks his bag in his office.
COHANHe's just was the dean of Yale College, one of the most highly respected scholars in the country, always wanted to be a university president, said that he turned down other offers until Duke came along, and the first thing that he encounters, even while he's unpacking his bag, while he's mentally unpacking his bags, the athletic director comes into his office and says, oh, by the way, Mike Krzyzewski is threatening to leave to go to the Los Angeles Lakers where they've offered him a five-year $40 million contract, $8 million a year.
COHANYou know, even before you got -- you know, open your office here, Dick, you're going to have to deal with the fact that Mike Krzyzewski is potentially going to the Los Angeles Lakers.
REHMSo how does that then take us to 2006? And remind us what happened in March.
COHANSo obviously Coach K. decided to stay. Dick Brodhead dodged a bullet. You know, they increased his compensation. They did all sorts of other things to make it more attractive to him. He's clearly the single most powerful person at Duke and the highest paid person at Duke. And so, well, the message is that athletics and athletes and student athletes are very, very important to Duke. And that's very different than the message he probably got at Yale.
COHANSo that, you know, come March 2006, it's spring break. The lacrosse team is on campus. They're basically the only team on campus. It had been a tradition apparently for 15 years to have a big party on the lacrosse team during this time. The guys after practice decided in the afternoon it would be a great thing to have a, you know, to have a party all day and then...
REHMThis is March 14.
COHANMarch 13 of 2006...
COHAN...going into the early morning hours of March 14.
COHANAnd at about midnight, they decided to invite two strippers. They paid $400 to them each with the idea incredibly that they were going to put on a show for two hours. After about five minutes of dancing and all sorts of, I would say, vulgar behavior that the boys evidenced, which I track in the book -- can't really say on a family radio show -- the women left. And later one of them accused three of the boys of raping her and sexually assaulting and kidnapping her.
COHANWell, kidnapping her in the sense of keeping her in this bathroom against her will.
REHMAnd you talked with her?
COHANYes. I talked with her, also for the first time that's she's spoken publicly about this. I met with her in a Durham jail while she was awaiting a trial on a completely separate matter of murdering her boyfriend, which is, of course, shocking. Last November, that trial occurred, and she was found guilty of murdering her boyfriend. She's now serving up to 18 years in prison for that crime.
REHMBut at the time, she and she alone claimed that she had been forcefully, sexually assaulted.
COHANYes. That is true. She claimed that she was the one in the bathroom with which she claimed was these three players. She was -- she left the house. She didn't make any claim when she left the house with the other dancer. Eventually, she would not communicate her name or where she lived. So the other dancer brought her to a Kroger supermarket parking lot in Durham whereupon a security guard at the Kroger -- it was early in the morning -- called the police.
COHANThe police came. They tried to get her out of the car. She wouldn't -- she was not responsive. They gave her smelling salts. It woke her up. They eventually took her to something called Durham Access. While she was at Durham Access, they asked her what had happened. She said, I was raped. They immediately took her to the Duke University Hospital. She was examined by a nurse. And for the first time, the nurse's report is in my book. That had never been released before.
COHANIt was deemed to be a private document, a secure document, a nonpublic document, and so it never came out before. I was able to get a copy of it. A lot of defense attorneys sort of made hay with it, about what they thought it said, but now, for the first time, you know, people can see actually what it said. And in there she tells a story, Crystal Mangum, the victim slash -- and she was later known as the accuser when the story turned.
COHANBut she told the story of how these guys, unnamed guys, had raped and sexually assaulted her. And Tara Levicy, the nurse who examined her that night and early that morning, basically believed her and wrote that in the report. Now, of course, the defense has made all sorts of hay about this, that she was an unqualified nurse, that she was a feminist, and therefore she was biased against, you know, the players and was very sympathetic.
REHMHow did they justify the claim that she was not really qualified to make that assessment?
COHANBecause she had gotten her certification on March 1 of 2006, but she hadn't gotten it in the mail until she actually went home that night on March, you know, 14.
COHANSo they said, okay, well, she wasn't technically certified 'cause she hadn't actually got her certification. Then she was from Maine. And when she was in Maine, she had, I guess, produced a play at the university in Maine, "The Vagina Monologues" play. And therefore they decided -- the defense decided that she was biased and a feminist, so therefore she couldn't objectively assess what happened to Crystal Mangum.
REHMWas there a second assessment at the time? Was there someone else who confirmed the evidence?
COHANWell, there was also a doctor who -- there were many doctors who examined Crystal. There were many police who talked to her. The police investigators from Durham spent a lot of time with Crystal. They obviously believed much of her story. They believed she was assaulted.
REHMDid they write that in a report?
COHANYes. Oh, yes, they did. One of the things that Mike Nifong told me, the Durham district attorney, was that had the players given DNA tests voluntarily, which they decided ultimately not to do, had they done that voluntarily, there would not have been a Duke Lacrosse case.
REHMWilliam Cohan, his new book is titled "The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities." Short break here, right back.
REHMAnd here's our first email following our earlier portion of the conversation about William Cohan's new book, "The Price of Silence." This from Mercedes, who says, "Mr. Cohan has expressed his belief that something happened to Crystal Mangum, at the Duke lacrosse party on March 13th," or 14th because it happened after midnight. "I would like to know, based on his research, what he believes happened in that bathroom. Does he believe that the three indicted players are not innocent?"
COHANSo that is a very simple question that is complex to answer.
COHANOf course. Because the first thing, Diane, is we will never know what happened in that bathroom. It's kind of, as Donald Rumsfeld would say, as unknown unknown. We won't know. In part because the people who were in that bathroom aren't talking.
COHANWell, she believes -- well, okay. She believes, she told me in the Durham County jail, that she believes she was assaulted with a broomstick in that bathroom. Okay. Fact number one. Okay. Mike Nifong, the Durham district attorney, that nobody in this case wants to hear from. They want Mike Nifong -- they won't be happy until Mike Nifong is buried in the ground.
REHMHe was actually disbarred, was he not?
COHANHe was disbarred. He was fired. He filed for personal bankruptcy. He spent a day -- he's the only person in this case to spend time in jail. He spent a day in jail for contempt of court. But he was a 28-year veteran of that office.
COHANProsecutor. He was extremely well respected before this case came along. And all of a sudden everybody wants to say he had no judgment and he was just out for political gain, and this was all a vendetta against Duke students, where both -- his parents both went to Duke.
COHANHe got into Duke and chose to go to UNC. They just make him out to be an incredible villain. And I'm sorry -- and this is going to make all the haters hate me all the more -- I don't believe it. Okay. I believe he was an honorable man trying to get to the bottom of what happened.
REHMAll right. Now, take us back to the Duke University Hospital once again. Did any of the evidence indicate that this young woman had been assaulted with a broomstick?
COHANWell, that night, when she was examined, I don't think she said anything. I mean, there was discussion about a broomstick and the threat of using a broomstick. The broomstick idea is something that she told me later. Okay. That was new information that was not mentioned that night. That night she said she was assaulted, she was raped, which means that a non-broomstick was used. That she was actually raped and sexually assaulted by the three men.
REHMShe said she was anally…
COHANAnally and vaginally assaulted…
COHAN…by three of the men at the same -- basically at the same time. And that was a story that she stuck to for a long time until December of 2006, when she was -- so this is sort of nine months into this controversy -- when she was interviewed by one of the Mike Nifong's investigators. And during that interview, which was, you know, transcribed and put on -- written down, she said she could no longer remember whether she was assaulted by a penis that night.
COHANAnd so Mike Nifong dropped the rape charge, kept the sexual assault charge and the kidnapping charge in December. And then in January of 2007, because the state bar had filed complaints against Nifong, he recused himself from the case and he turned it over to the state attorney general.
REHMTell me why Nifong recused himself.
COHANYou have to give the defense attorneys in this case an incredible amount of credit for the way they represented their clients. They are powerful people in the state of North Carolina. They are well-respected lawyers in the state of North Carolina. The state bar in North Carolina, until this point, had basically been a, you know, a powerless sort of namby-pamby organization that never disciplined any district attorneys. For the first time they decided that Mike Nifong needed to be disciplined. He needed to be removed from the case.
COHANWhy. The first charge was because during the first or second week of March, after he had the case, he was on TV everywhere talking about his belief that these kids had done this -- committed this crime. He was everywhere. He was everywhere. And the second part of it was related to DNA evidence that the defense believed that Mike Nifong withheld. I don't believe he withheld it. He turned all the DNA evidence over to the defense during the course of the procedural part…
REHMWhat kind of DNA is he accused of having withheld?
COHANThe DNA, the tests. There were two sets of tests. Okay. First, the state investigatory arm took the DNA that the boys were compelled to give. Remember, I said that had they given the DNA voluntarily there may not have been a Duke lacrosse case. But they originally said they would give the DNA voluntarily. Then they said they wouldn't. And then a judge, a state judge, compelled them in what was called a non-testimonial order to give the DNA.
COHANThe all traipsed down to the Durham police station to give the DNA. Those DNA samples were sent off to a state lab. They came back negative for the Duke lacrosse players. He then -- Nifong then took more DNA samples and turned it over to a private lab and that, too, came back with no evidence from these players on Crystal Mangum's body, in or on, as they like to say. Okay. Now, the defense attorneys claim that Mike Nifong withheld that information from them. But that's just simply not true.
COHANHe turned it all over to them months before there was going to be any trial. He didn't make it easy for them. He didn't put a nice bow around it. He made them dig through it and find out that there was DNA evidence from other men in and on her, not related to the Duke players. So of course they then trumpeted that information publicly and then they had the state bar file a complaint against Nifong for claiming to so-call withhold this evidence. But obviously he didn't withhold the evidence because they found it.
REHMSo they found the evidence, which it sounds as though could have been exculpatory.
COHANYes. I'm not a lawyer. So then there's the whole debate about exculpatory and inculpatory. Basically, Mike Nifong, what he told me was that the absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence. It happens to be a same phrase that Donald Rumsfeld used in the new Errol Morris movie. But the fact of the matter is there was rape cases brought in Durham and in jurisdictions all over this country before DNA evidence was used.
COHANBefore they even had DNA testing, rape trials occurred all across the country. And basically, his view -- this is Mike Nifong's view -- just because there was no DNA evidence doesn't mean something didn't happen in that bathroom.
REHMOkay. Here's what I'd like to understand. You said that one of the other strippers took the young woman into her car, went to a parking lot where police approached. Now, what does the other young woman say?
COHANOkay. So this is complicated, too. Okay. At first the other -- now, the other woman was not in the bathroom with Crystal.
COHANSo it's basically hearsay.
COHANAt first what she said was, "It's a crock. It never happened." Then she changed her story and said that actually it could have happened. "I don't know for sure. I wasn't there, but it could have happened." The defense says she changed her story because there was an outstanding warrant for her arrest for a parole violation.
COHANAnd that the quid pro quo, they claim -- again, the defense has a big conspiracy theory about all this -- was that Nifong had conspired with the other stripper in exchange for reducing her payment related to her outstanding warrant that she would change her story. But she's basically not findable. I couldn't find her. I don't know where she is.
COHANBut she -- the last point was that, you know, she made, was that it's quite possible that this happened, but I don't know.
REHMAll right. The remainder of the subtitle of your book is, "The Corruption of Our Great Universities." What are you referring to?
COHANI'm referring to the fact that, you know, number one, that the emphasis on sports and big-time sports and the status that athletes get at universities all across this country is just a fact of life that is corrupting. We see that now going on, playing out in real time because we're just coming off the NCAA basketball championship where billions of dollars go to these schools.
COHANAnd we see that, of course, none of that money goes to the student athletes. And we see that the Northwestern football team is, of course, trying to change that real time. And you can see what happened, you know, at Duke. You know, there's a $50 million sports budget. Basically, sports at Duke doesn't really make any money. So that's basically a gift from the University to the athletic department to enable those sports to happen.
COHANThe basketball program does make money, of course, Under Coach Gay. But this party, in the end, Duke settled with these kids for reasons that are mystifying to me. Paid them $20 million each.
COHANAnd this party has cost Duke upwards of $100 million, between legal fees and P.R. fees and investigations and settlements. And I wanted to know why. Why did my university spend this money? And I feel like, you know, they got corrupted in the process.
REHMHere's an email from Lisa, who says, "Please address the issue of the culture of the men's lacrosse team, whose end-of-year celebrations included a stripper. For these young men to have been wrongly convicted and to serve jail time would certainly have been unjust, but they put themselves in a position to have that happen by having a stripper at the party. The issue of the exploitation of women was never addressed. And the lacrosse players risked their freedom by their thinking it was okay to celebrate with a stripper present."
COHANI agree with that email. I think that because of the pedestal that the lacrosse players were put on at Duke, they were allowed to get away with a lot of bad behavior, misdemeanor kind of behavior, underage drinking, public urination, noise. I mean if you look at the analysis of the "crimes" or the misdemeanors that occurred at Duke during this period and the years leading up to it, fully half of them were committed by the lacrosse team players.
COHANSo there was this culture of being able to get away with things. And the women who followed them were called lacross-titutes. And so they had the complete devotion of many of the women at Duke, too, in a way that was not healthy.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here is an email from Michael who says, "As he father of a former Division I lax recruit, I can personally attest to the terrible lacrosse party culture. It's been that way for many years. Lacrosse is a rich kids' contact sport. Most Division I players come from the most exclusive private high schools, have led a life of promiscuity, and entitlement. I know of many parents who rue the day their son chose lacrosse over any other sport." That's a pretty broad statement.
COHANYou know, yes it is a pretty broad statement. It is a sport that has been predominately played at private schools in the Northeast and in the Northeastern Corridor. Recently, a couple years ago the Princeton coach moved to the University of Denver and started a program there, but lacrosse isn't played in Stanford, for instance. It's really played east of the Mississippi by and large, except for the University of Denver.
COHANAnd it's basically, as we said, by the sons of well-to-do parents. And by the way, as is their right, the parents of these kids, of course, had a bottomless pit of money to spend on the defense. Had the tables been turned, had it been, you know, black players and, you know, and poor black players, there wouldn't have -- and they would not have had the money for this defense. And who knows what would have happened.
REHMOf course there were lots of concerns over alcohol use at schools across the country.
COHANWell, Diane, this is one thing that I've come to learn. You know, underage drinking is a national epidemic. You know, the drinking age is 21. So everybody knows that administrators at these colleges and universities are turning a blind eye, certainly every weekend, maybe even every day, to the underage drinking that's going on. Duke tried to grapple with it by, you know, Duke has a West Campus and an East Campus. This house was off of East Campus.
COHANThe partying, the excessive partying was going on in the neighborhood called Trinity Park, off of East Campus. It had been going on for years. And the neighbors were getting increasingly upset. And they kept pushing the Durham police to do something about it. Finally, at the beginning of 2005/2006 school year they determined they were going to do something about it and crack down. And they did crack down, but the lacrosse players, you know, with impunity, kept having these parties.
COHANAnd were basically asking for the police to come and, you know, challenge them on it. And they had this party. Interestingly, which Mike Nifong pointed out, normally when the police would come to these parties, of course people would still be at the party. But at this particular party they came to the party, you know, at 1:00 in the morning or whenever it was, and none of the players were there. Everyone was gone. Everyone had disappeared.
COHANNow that is, according to Mike Nifong, very strange behavior. You know, if you hadn't done anything wrong why did everybody have to flee? When Reade Seligman, one of the players who was indicted, says, you know, his alibi was he took a cab at whatever, 12:13 or whatever time it was, he asked for that cab to come not to the house where the party was, but at a house around the corner. Why did he do that?
REHMWilliam Cohan, book, "The Price of Silence," all about the Duke lacrosse scandal. Short break here, we'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. If you've just joined us, William Cohan is my guest. He's written a new book, this time about the Duke Lacrosse scandal. It's titled "The Price of Silence." The subtitle also goes on "The Power of the Elite and the Corruption of our Great Universities." William Cohan is, of course, the author of the New York Times Best Sellers "Money and Power" and "House of Cards."
REHMHere's an email from Malcolm who says, "One thing your guest failed to mention was that the DA, the prosecutor Nifong was in a heated re-election campaign.
COHANThat is, of course, quite true. And I think I referred to that as well but I'm happy to reiterate the fact that he was appointed the DA in 2005 when the then current DA was appointed a judge. He then, at the end of 2005, declared himself to be a candidate for the seat himself after 28 years being an underling. He was actively campaigning to become the DA. Beginning of the year of 2006 he had two opponents. And then in March of 2006 this happened.
COHANSo the defense and the critics will say he just used this case to promote his political ambitions, because Durham is 45 percent black so he's just going to appeal to the black community. I mean, I think that is total rubbish. He didn't -- he is already a declared candidate in January of 2006. This case comes around in March of 2006. He realizes it's going to be volatile and important. And he just happened to find out about the case by reading this non-testimonial order that appeared on a copy machine a week after the case had started. And so for his critics to complain that he was just exploiting this for political purposes, I don't think is fair.
REHMHere's an email from Andrew. Did you speak with any of the Duke 88 faculty members and what happened to those faculty members?
COHANYes. I spoke to a number of the faculty members. Understandably they still work there. And even though they're tenured, they don't want -- never wanted their names to be used because they are very scared. There's still legal proceedings going on. There's still law suits. Lawyers have been sending professors threatening letters about make sure they don't talk to the media, don't share any documents with the media. Everything is subject to litigation.
COHANSo the answer is I did speak to them. Many of them of course are still -- they remain adamant with their original position, the group of 88, that something happened here and that none of us would be proud of. they had a chance to reiterate that view or decide not to pursue that view any more a year later in March of 2007. And they reiterated their view despite knowing that the kids were soon to be declared innocent.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Terry in Hicksville, Ohio. Hi, Terry. You're on the air.
TERRYHi. Yeah, thank you. First, based on this I probably am not going to give a donation this year. I am just shocked that a program would basically publish something I would call propaganda. As you pointed out, you are not an attorney. And as an attorney I can say the real justice here is the District Attorney didn't go to jail longer. What you describe on the air is a violation of code of ethics. When you force the defendants to find it before you -- find evidence before you turn it over, that's a violation of ethics.
TERRYAlso there's a violation of ethics to threaten to prosecute a cab driver if he didn't change his testimony. And the reason that Duke didn't want to go to trial, because they would've got their clock cleaned and it would've came out ways of true corrupting influence in our colleges today, which is a left wing fanatical feminism that so pervasive on campus.
REHMAll right, sir. Thanks for calling.
COHANI'm not sure there's a question there.
REHMHe asked -- he mentioned a cab driver.
COHANOkay. So the cab driver that he's talking about was the cab driver that drove Reade Seligmann, picked him up at the house around the corner from the house where this party occurred, which is very strange, then took him to the cash machine where he could of course be photographed taking cash out. And then to a restaurant -- the Cook-Out restaurant to get some food and then back to his dorm. And basically Mr. Mostafa the cab driver was saying -- you know, was -- gave an affidavit saying, I picked him up here, I took him here. And this formed the basis of Reade Seligmann's alibi, which actually seems quite credible.
COHANMike Nifong thinks that that alibi is sort of convenient. If you did something wrong why did -- if you didn't do anything wrong why did you have the cab pick him up around the corner? And if you were trying to establish an alibi, of course he would go to an ATM machine and then a restaurant and then pay a big tip to the cab driver and all of this.
COHANSo Mike Nifong has doubts about Reade Seligmann's alibi. It seems pretty airtight to me but nevertheless, what this caller is referring to is that the cab driver had driven a woman -- totally separately, had driven a woman to the mall where she went into a store and stole some handbags. And then he drove the woman home, okay. And there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest for sort of abating -- aiding and abetting this stealing of the handbags crime. And this was dug up when his name surfaced in the -- providing the alibi for Reade Seligmann.
COHANAnd so the defense of course made a big deal about how somehow Nifong was manipulating the cab driver with this outstanding warrant and forced him to go to trial. He was found not guilty, of course, of having anything to do with the stealing of the handbags. And he didn't change his story. So again, you know, there's so much misinformation.
COHANI mean, one thing that I am amazed at, you know, when we're talking about DNA is one of the players in the house who was living at the house who was one of the co-captains, Matt Zash, said that he had moved -- Crystal Mangum was wearing plastic fake fingernails. He said that he had moved and thrown those fake plastic fingernails, which came off in a struggle, into the wastebasket, okay. And there was no DNA evidence of his on those fingernails.
COHANHowever, there was DNA evidence on those fingernails of David Evans, one of the indicted players, at least with 98 percent certainty that they matched his DNA. And she said -- Crystal Mangum said from the beginning that she struggled in that bathroom and she was fighting for her life. And that's why her fake fingernails fell -- came off. Now so if she hadn't struggled why did her fake fingernails come off? And if she hadn't struggled why was David Evans' DNA on those fingernails?
COHANNow the defense will say because he's the one that put them in the waste basket. But in fact it was Matt Zash who put them in the wastebasket and they don't -- never explained that and of course nobody wants to talk about that.
REHMAll right. To Thomas in Kinston, N.C. Hi, you're on the air.
THOMASHi. Hello. I can't help but think that these gentlemen and the media were being persecuted heavily simply for the fact that they had strippers at a campus party. And people saw that as chauvinistic, saw these men as elitists, okay. Well, my question is, would Duke University have reacted the same way if they became aware of other provocative behaviors having on campus, whether it was a homosexual swingers ring or something of that nature?
THOMASAnd my argument is that they wouldn't because we accept homosexuality in all its forms now but we are intent on persecuting wealthy white males, you know, for things that, you know, affect our sensibilities. And I think it's a very unfair way to look at this case. And that...
COHANWell, first of all, it was a lot more than just having strippers at that party. You need to read, you know, what was in the police reports that I include in the book. A part of the -- three of the players who lived at the house, Matt Zash, Dan Flannery and David Evans voluntarily gave statements to the police about what happened that night. And in those statements it's clear that there was more going on than just dancing and under-age drinking, okay.
COHANThere were racial epitaphs thrown, there was provocative statements with a broomstick made about how they were going to assault the dancers with the broomstick. It was very, very ugly behavior. Again, nothing that anyone would be proud of. Maybe -- it may not have been criminal behavior. As I say, we will not know.
COHANObviously Mike Nifong and Crystal Mangum still believe there was criminal behavior in that bathroom. A lot of people would say they have absolutely no credibility. You know, I think what I tried to do for the first time, as I said, was present a fair and balanced way all of the evidence that I could dig up. And I dug up a lot of evidence and I talked to everybody who would talk to me. And even the people who wouldn't talk to me, I presented fairly and honestly their point of view.
COHANSo I think the reader should, you know, hopefully, if they're interested, read this book and will see for the first time all of the evidence. And they can decide for themselves whether or not justice really was served here.
REHMAnd here is an email from Paul who says, I live in Durham. I'm a researcher in the Duke community. I obviously cannot speak to the disputed facts of the case. I can speak to the culture privilege and entitlement that pervade Duke. One day shortly after the case, I was working in the library when the Lacrosse players entered all clad in shirts mocking Nifong and his charge that they were hoodlums. They showed absolutely no regard for the other library patrons as they talked about their latest drunken exploits in the most lewd of terms.
REHMI wish to stress I view this as a culture that has compromised the integrity of the individuals involved. However, that Duke and other universities failed to address this is truly troubling."
COHANAnd I think he's absolutely right. And this is my alma mater. You would've thought that this would -- this incident would've evoked a great amount of introspection. And at first there was. Dick Brodhead, the president, created all these committees, a culture committee, a lacrosse committee, this committee and that committee. But -- and he seemed quite serious about addressing under-age drinking and the lacrosse-stitutes and the privilege and the elitism and all the misdemeanors that the lacrosse players had committed without -- with impunity up to that point.
COHANIt seems like there was a real desire to change but once the narrative changed, once it suddenly seemed that Nifong was out on a limb and that Crystal Mangum was bipolar and was making all of this up and then it got thrown out by the State Attorney General Roy Cooper after a four-month investigation that he won't let anybody see or he won't give interviews about this, that all seems to have faded away.
COHANAnd, you know, even in recent years, I mean, we know about the Duke porn star from this fall, which was big news for a while. There were Asia-themed parties at Duke that were -- again, I'm a duke alum and a loyal duke alum. I find this kind of behavior reprehensible. There was Karen Owen who decided it would be a great idea to put a PowerPoint together to discuss all the men she had sex with while she was at Duke. And it went viral and public. I don't understand what's going on at this university, which is my alma mater and needs to change.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm going to take a call now from Stuart Taylor who I think has some very strong opinions on this issue. Stuart, welcome to the program.
STUART TAYLORThank you, Diane. And hello, Mr. Cohan. I'll try to be brief. I've written a book. It's not disinterested but I am well informed. It's called "Until Proven Innocent: Political Correctness and the Shameful Injustices of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case." It strongly argues that the players were innocent. My co-author's KC Johnson. My question for Mr. Cohan is whether any of the following three comments are wrong.
STUART TAYLORNumber one, this book adds not a single piece of significant new evidence to that which convinced then North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and virtually all serious analysts by mid 2007 that the Lacrosse players were innocent of any sexual assault on anyone...
TAYLOR...unless one considers as new evidence Mr. Cohan's stunningly credulous interviews with three far-from-credible participants in the drama, Nifong, Crystal Mangum, the whole schpiel.
REHMYou're going to have to be brief, Stuart.
TAYLORLastly, what Mr. Cohan just said about being the first to get the report of the sexual assault (unintelligible) is clearly false. Dozens of reporters, including me, have had it since 2006. Mr. Cohan could've found it prominently displayed in our book. Thank you.
COHANWell, I guess -- Stuart Taylor who wrote his book with KC Johnson in 2006, it was published in 2007, clearly does not want to take into account any of the new information that has come out in terms of the police reports, in terms of yes, Tara Levicy report. He obviously doesn't want -- doesn't care or want to hear what Mike Nifong would have to say or Crystal Mangum or Bob Steele.
COHANBasically I have tried to present all sides to this fairly and dispassionately. But the haters like Stuart Taylor don't want anything to do with a fair and dispassionate assessment of this case. They are so whetted to their point of view of the fact that these kids were railroaded and were declared innocent and therefore must be innocent, they don't care about the fact that Roy Cooper, the attorney general of North Carolina will not make his investigative material public.
COHANI've had to sue him in North Carolina as under a Freedom of Information Act request to try to get access to that information. He declined on my request to be interviewed. If these kids are quote unquote "so innocent," why wouldn't Roy Cooper be the first to talk to me and why wouldn't he make his investigative material available publically?
REHMWhere are these young men now?
COHANSo the three indicted players, they've got their 20 million. One of them is in a private equity firm in New York. One of them works for Deutsche Bank in New York. And one of them went to law school and is now clerking for a federal judge in Campton, N.J.
REHMWilliam Cohan. The book is titled "The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite and the Corruption of our Great Universities." And he's telling you to make up your own mind. Thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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