My advice now would be that if this book comes out and it contains things that are not true about what happened on that evening … it would be my advice to them to make sure she doesn’t ever make one single penny off of it. — Duke case defense attorney Joseph Cheshire
Last Friday morning, I opened an email that contained a press release for a forthcoming book titled The Last Dance for Grace: The Crystal Mangum Story. Thinking it was an Internet hoax, I googled “Crystal Mangum” and found the story on WRAL.com. Sure enough, the infamous former stripper and prostitute, who falsely accused three Duke University lacrosse players of gang-raping and beating her in a bathroom, was writing her memoirs:
The Last Dance for Grace: The Crystal Mangum Story is the only definitive account of the life and struggles of the woman at the center of the Duke lacrosse case, the alleged accuser. Were it not for the Duke lacrosse case, she likely would be described as a bright, young woman from Durham, North Carolina, who has had a difficult life. Like so many of us, Crystal has made mistakes and has struggled to make amends. Her biggest mistake just happened to lead to one of the most controversial legal cases in American history.
Let’s recap this “bright” woman’s “biggest mistake.”
In March 2006, stripper and “escort” service employee Crystal Mangum cried rape, most likely to avoid arrest for a probation violation stemming from a 2002 drunken car chase with the police. An obscure district attorney from North Carolina seized the opportunity to win re-election in a heavily black city by going after the accused “rich” white men. Little did he realize his actions would end a 28-year legal career and shroud him in shame.
From the beginning, Mangum told conflicting stories about what happened to her that night. At first she claimed 20 men raped her, then settled on three: Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans. In one version of her story, she was only groped. In another, she was raped. She even claimed that fellow stripper Kim Roberts helped the men rape her and steal her money.
Despite Mangum’s inconsistent statements and the lack of DNA evidence connecting the men to Mangum, Nifong had Seligmann, Finnerty, and Evans arrested. They were indicted on charges of first-degree forcible rape, sexual offense, and kidnapping. (Nifong dropped the rape charge after Mangum said she couldn’t remember whether she was penetrated by a penis.) With a weak case and a liar as a chief witness, the ambitious and foolish prosecutor conspired to conceal exculpatory evidence.
In January 2007, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper took over the case. In April 2007, he dropped all charges against the men, declared them “innocent,” and called Nifong a “rogue prosecutor.” Nifong was fired and disbarred, and he spent a day in jail for criminal contempt.
Cooper said he didn’t pursue a case against Mangum because she may have been mentally ill and actually believed her own lies. Asked what he thought about the book, Duke case defense attorney Joseph Cheshire said, “It made me angry because the whole reason that we asked that this woman not be pursued criminally for what she did to these fellas is we felt sorry for her, and we felt to some degree she had been victimized by the process and she was very sick.”
That’s called compassion.
Seligmann, Finnerty, and Evans spent a harrowing year accused of committing a brutal gang rape and incurring millions in legal fees. But once exonerated, they showed compassion to a woman who so far has shown none to them. Instead of accepting this blessing and getting on with her life, Mangum seeks to gain from her “biggest mistake.” And expose herself to more ridicule. Perhaps Mangum will show remorse. We’ll find out when the book is released on October 1.
“During the investigation and in its aftermath,” reads the press release, “she never spoke publicly, that is until now.”
The first two words in Crystal Mangum’s book should be, “I’m sorry.”