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.
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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 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.”
Despite State Attorney General Roy Cooper's April 2007 declaration that there was no evidence of an assault of any kind at the 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 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 Cheshire, 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.”
David Rudolf and other lawyers representing Seligmann say they will consider legal action against Mangum if she continues to assert that a crime happened.
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.