A small group of boosters and others close to the Duke University lacrosse team have hired President Clinton’s former lawyer as part of an aggressive public relations effort to argue that the players did not rape a woman at an off-campus party.
Bob Bennett, a former federal prosecutor and Washington lawyer who represented Clinton in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case, is the spokesman for a group called the Committee for Fairness to Duke Families.
He is not expected to represent any players, but he has joined the chorus of those who fear for the reputation of the team and the university.
“It is unfortunate that members of the Duke community, players and families are being judged before all the facts are in,” Bennett said in a statement. “A lot of innocent young people and the families are being hurt, and unfortunately this situation is being abused by people with separate agendas. It is grossly unfair, and cool heads must prevail.”
The group has asked to meet with Duke President Richard Brodhead. Neither Brodhead nor Bennett returned calls for comment.
No charges have been filed as Dist. Atty. Mike Nifong presses on with his investigation of allegations that a stripper was gang-raped at a team party March 13. This week, lawyers for the players said DNA tests failed to connect any of the team’s members to the alleged attack.
Nifong has refused requests for an interview. He is running for another term in May and took part in a candidate forum Wednesday evening, in which he reiterated that he believed that a medical exam of the alleged victim indicated a crime occurred.
“The fact is, I didn’t pick the crime. I didn’t pick the time,” Nifong said at the forum. “But I’m going to do the case right.”