Published: Oct 24, 2008 12:30 AM
Modified: Oct 24, 2008 02:06 AM
Crystal Gail Mangum brushed aside questions at a news conference Thursday.
Woman in Duke case ends silence
Assault did occur, her new book says
Anne Blythe, Staff Writer Comment on this story
DURHAM - Crystal Gail Mangum, the discredited accuser in the Duke lacrosse case, faced the media Thursday for the first time since her allegations turned the lives of three players and their teammates upside down.
But any insights into the contentious case were few and far between.
Mangum, who has been described as the pawn of a rogue prosecutor, sidestepped fundamental questions -- such as what she would say to the exonerated players, how often she met with the district attorney and why there were so many contradictions in her accounts of the March 2006 spring break lacrosse team party.
"I have no comments about the details of the case," Mangum said Thursday morning to a crowd of reporters at the Know Bookstore near the N.C. Central University campus.
With many of the particulars of her life already splashed across Web news sites and blogs, Mangum has decided to tell her story the way she wants it told. That version is "The Last Dance for Grace, Crystal Gail Mangum," a 200-page memoir that she co-authored with Vincent "Ed" Clark, a self-employed publicist from Eastern North Carolina.
Mangum, wearing a conservative gray suit and sporting a stylish bob, portrayed a dramatically different image from the stumbling one of her in photos from the team party two and a half years ago. The mother of three, who recently graduated from NCCU, said she hoped to go to graduate school and get a doctorate.
"Many people have tried to use my name and my past to intimidate me, to make me believe that I was a nobody," Mangum told reporters. "I'm a real person. I have feelings. I'm not just an exotic dancer. I'm not just someone who tried to frame someone who was innocent of sexual assault. My only intentions were for justice, and I wanted justice for myself."
Justice can be a terrible thing. But,since Crystal has already received considerable mercy, and as she still hypocritically professes to demand justice, may the state of North Carolina finally bestow upon her precisely what she asks and so well deserves.]
Despite State Attorney General Roy Cooper's declaration in April 2007 that there was no evidence of an assault of any kind at the lacrosse team party, Mangum continues to assert that she was sexually assaulted at that house, an allegation that draws ire from defense attorneys.
Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, the three players accused of gang-rape, spent 13 months of their lives fighting what the state's top prosecutor described as a rogue prosecution. In April 2007, Cooper dismissed all charges against the three, issuing a rare declaration of innocence.
"Her press conference and her continued assertion that an assault happened is really pathetic," said Joseph B. Cheshire V, a Raleigh lawyer who represented Evans.
"She says she's writing this book to help other people, and what she's continuing to do by lying is continuing to hurt people, including women who really are victims of sexual assault. She's clearly doing this to make money. By continuing to lie, she makes everything in the book, everything she says, a lie."
David Rudolf and other lawyers representing Seligmann say they will consider legal action against Mangum if she continues to assert that a crime happened.
"Her incoherent passages are not based on facts, but are quite simply false ramblings," the lawyers said in a statement. "She ignores all of the verifiable facts of the case. The individuals associated with her publication of this 'manuscript' are seeking to advance themselves by associating with a woman who has a dubious past."
'Everyone can learn'
The vanity publication is not a rehash of the case that ended the law career of former District Attorney Mike Nifong, according to its creators. It is, they say, an attempt to close a tumultuous chapter for a team, a mother of three and a city.
"It's not only about my hardships, but it's also about the good times I've had in my life," Mangum said. "It's important for me to let people know who I am, not only because of the rumors and the awful things that were said about me but because everyone can learn from my situation."
Mangum, who has suffered from alcohol abuse and mental problems, said she wanted to share her experience in a positive way.
At times on Thursday, she wiped away tears. "A lot of things went wrong in my case," she said.
Mangum's only published media interview prior to Thursday was with Samiha Khanna, a former reporter at The News & Observer who spent 15 minutes with the accuser shortly after Durham police ordered DNA tests for all but one member of the lacrosse team.
Mangum's words from that interview rallied an empathetic crowd to her side. But over the course of the next year, as three Duke lacrosse players were held hostage by serious charges for crimes they did not commit, Mangum's words undermined her credibility.
Nifong, the former district attorney who pushed ahead with the case despite a lack of evidence, was stripped of his law license and ousted from office for withholding evidence and other misconduct during his prosecution.
Mangum quickly disappeared from the bookstore after a short question-and-answer session. Reporters and bloggers who had chased after her story for years were left again with many questions.