Shabazz made appearance in N.C. during Duke lacrosse rape case

By Lawrence Smith | Nov 23, 2007

Malik Shabazz, center, rallied in May 2006 in Durham, N.C., during the height of the Duke lacrosse scandal.

CHARLESTON – Almost 18 months to the day he took center stage in leading a anti-hate rally through the streets of Charleston, a Washington, D.C., attorney played a bit piece in the drama that unfolded in Durham, N.C., regarding the Duke lacrosse rape case.

On Nov. 3, Malik Z. Shabazz, founder of Black Lawyers for Justice, lead an estimated 1,000 people from the state capitol to the Robert C. Byrd federal courthouse in downtown Charleston calling on federal and state prosecutors to file hate-crime charges in the Megan Williams case. Williams is the 20-year old black woman who alleges she was kidnapped, raped and tortured by six white people in Logan County in September.

About a week later, the Charleston Gazette reported Logan County Prosecutor Brian Abraham petitioned the court for the appointment of a guardian ad litem for Williams. He was quoted as saying the appointment of guardian was necessary because "the people in her social sphere and the people around her may be allowing things, media events, that are not in Megan's best interest or in the best interest of her case."

It was not clear if he was referring to Shabazz. Still, the Williams family has since agreed to keep a low profile until the case comes to trial.

The agreement comes as two books written about the media sensation that surrounded allegations of three members of the Duke University men's lacrosse team raping a stripper they paid to perform at their home during Spring Break, detail Shabazz's involvement in the case.

National attention

On May 1, 2006, Shabazz, along with an estimated 30 members of the New Black Panther Party, led a march around the Duke University campus. The march was in support of Crystal Gale Magnum, a stripper who alleged she was kidnapped and raped by members of the men's Lacrosse team on March 13, 2006.

According to published accounts, Magnum and Kim Roberts were hired by Dan Flannery, the 2006 team captain, to perform that night at the home he shared with two other team members at 610 Buchanan Boulevard. After arriving separately to the location prior to midnight, Magnum and Roberts go into the bathroom to change clothes.

The pair exit the bathroom, and begin performing for those gathered at midnight. However, the routine only lasts about four minutes as the crowd becomes agitated at Magnum continuing to stumble.

Roberts and Magnum retreat into the bathroom. While in the bathroom, some team members slide money under the door in an effort to coax them out.

Eventually, after about 10 minutes, Roberts and Magnum leave the house, and begin to depart in Roberts' Honda Accord.

However, it was not until about 12:41 a.m. that they departed. According to published accounts, Flannery apologized to them for the circumstances, and another team member aided Magnum to the car after she was found on the back porch passed out following an attempt to retrieve one of her shoes.

Nevertheless, words were exchanged between Roberts, Magnum and the players including racial epithets. After departing the scene, Roberts would call 911 and report that she and a "girlfriend" were the subject of racial taunts as they drove by 610 Buchanan Boulevard.

Later that morning, Magnum would answer "yes" to questions about being raped. However, she would later recant her statement, only to reassert she was in fact raped.

Nevertheless, a rape kit test was performed on Magnum at the Durham University Medical Center.

Despite the full cooperation of the Lacrosse team in the ensuing investigation, Durham County Prosecutor Mike Nifong is quoted as calling the team members "hooligans," "I am convinced that there was a rape," and that the "team members are standing together and refusing to talk with investigators."

Politics and race

The reason for Nifong becoming so camera-friendly was the need for publicity in the upcoming Democratic primary for district attorney.

In their book, "It's Not About the Truth," Don Yeager, and former Duke lacrosse head coach Mike Pressler, who was forced to resign in the midst of the rape allegations, said "The Duke lacrosse case brought with it what the district attorney needed: free press."

The fact that Durham had the highest percentage of blacks, 39.5 percent, in the 10 most populous counties in North Carolina, Yeager and Pressler write "They could –- and would -– resuscitate his campaign in the last weeks."

According to Stuart Taylor Jr. and K.C. Johnson, authors of "Until Proven Innocent" and Nader Baydoun and R. Stephanie Good, authors of "A Rush to Injustice," Nifong relished when groups like Shabazz's NBPP spoke out on the case. In fact, both books state that Shabazz was granted access to Nifong's evidence, a fact that Baydoun, a Nashville attorney and Duke alumnus, said he finds "quite disturbing."

By the time of the NBPP march, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligman had been indicted by the grand jury two weeks earlier on charges of first-degree forcible rape, first-degree sexual offense and kidnapping. A third lacrosse team member, David Evans, would be indicted two weeks later.

According to Baydoun and Good, Shabazz led the marchers down the streets of Durham yelling, "How do you find the two defendants in this case?" in which the crowd replied "Guilty." Likewise, Shabazz and NBPP demanded that Finnerty and Seligman "be sent to prison and that all those who attended the party at 610 North Buchanan be expelled from school."

According to Taylor and Johnson, Shabazz is also quoted that day was saying "This is a hate crime, we want a conviction ... We demand justice, and we will have justice, one way or another." Tensions grew high during the march when the crowd approached 610 North Buchanan, a local woman, Victoria Peterson, "urged the crowd to burn down the house."

At the urging of police, Shabazz announced he did not endorse Peterson's suggestion.

About a month prior to the march, Peterson, at a forum held at North Carolina Central University, alleged that DUMC, where Magnum was examined, "tampered with" the evidence.

The day after the march was the primary election. In the three-way race, Nifong won with a plurality of 45.15 percent.

Eventually, the case against Finnerty, Seligman and Evans would begin to unravel. Before they were indicted, DNA evidence suggested no rape occurred, and Magnum could never positively identify any of her alleged attackers.

Though the rape charges are dropped against them on Dec. 22, Finnerty, Seligman and Evans are still left defending against the sexual assault and kidnapping charges. Six days later, the North Carolina Bar files an ethics complaint against Nifong for some of the out-of-courtroom comments he made.

The Bar would amend that complaint a month later to include charges of lying about withholding DNA which could have exonerated the three players. Earlier in month on Jan. 14, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced his office was taking over the investigation.

At a press conference on April 11, Cooper announced that all charges would be dropped against Finnerty, Seligman and Evans since "based on the significant inconsistencies between the evidence and the various accounts given by the accusing witness, we believe these three individuals are innocent of these charges."

In June, the North Carolina Bar's Disciplinary Hearing Commission voted to annul Nifong's license to practice law. According to Taylor and Johnson, State Bar Prosecutor Doug Broker referred to Nifong as a "minister of injustice."

Attempts to get a comment from Shabazz about the statements he made during the march were unsuccessful, as he did not return calls by presstime.

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