In March 2006, student athletes on Duke University’s lacrosse team put on a party that none would ever forget – for all the wrong reasons. After the party, hired exotic dancer Crystal Mangum accused three of the lacrosse players of rape.
The case became a sensation, tapping Americans’ anxieties about race and class. The students were wealthy, white, and attended a prestigious university. Ms. Mangum was poor, black, and enrolled at a traditionally African-American college. There was what North Carolina’s attorney general would later call “a tragic rush to accuse.”
The players were charged on the basis of Mangum’s story. They certainly had behaved badly. One team member sent an e-mail that referenced killing the strippers he had hired for the party. But the problem was Magnum’s account wasn’t true. By April 2007, Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped the charges and apologized to the three men. Local prosecutor Mike Nifong, who was up for reelection in largely African-American Durham, N.C., was later stripped of his law license for “dishonesty, fraud, and misrepresentation” in the case.
Mr. Cooper declined to charge Mangum for making false charges. In April she was indicted for an alleged role in the slaying of her boyfriend.