Duke DA apologizes to lacrosse players

By AARON BEARD Associated Press Writer DURHAM, N.C. (AP) - The local prosecutor who charged three Duke lacrosse players with raping a stripper apologized to the athletes Thursday, a day after North Carolina's attorney general dropped the entire case.

"To the extent that I made judgments that ultimately proved to be incorrect, I apologize to the three students that were wrongly accused," Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Roy Cooper not only dropped all remaining charges against the players Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans, but pronounced them innocent and said they were the victims of Nifong's "tragic rush to accuse."

Cooper branded Nifong a "rogue" prosecutor who was guilty of "overreaching." "I also understand that whenever someone has been wrongly accused, the harm caused by the accusations might not be immediately undone merely by dismissing them," Nifong said. "It is my sincere desire that the actions of Attorney General Cooper will serve to remedy any remaining injury that has resulted from these cases."

Nifong refused to answer any questions after handing the statement to an Associated Press reporter outside his office in Durham. Seligmann's attorney, Jim Cooney, responded bitterly to the apology. "You can accept an apology from someone who knows all the facts and simply makes an error," Cooney said.

"If a person refuses to know all the facts and then makes a judgment, that's far worse - particularly when that judgment destroys lives."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)