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Duke Lacrosse Players Can Sue Over Bogus Charges

(CN) - The three Duke lacrosse players who were falsely accused of rape can sue Durham prosecutors, a federal judge ruled. The same judge will also let three of the players' lacrosse teammates who were not accused pursue their own lawsuit.

David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligman were charged was rape, sexual assault and kidnapping after an exotic dancer claimed she was raped at a team party in 2006.

State prosecutors took over after the case fell apart in the hands of then-Durham County District Attorney Michael Nifong. The state dismissed the charges, and the three players sued the prosecutors, Durham police and the DNA lab.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, but the Middle District of North Carolina ruled that the players can move forward with their case for malicious prosecution and fabrication of evidence.

U.S. District Judge James Beaty wrote that official immunity cannot protect the defendants from the plaintiffs' claims.

"No reasonable official could have believed that it was permissible to deliberately or recklessly create false or misleading evidence to present to a grand jury to effect a citizen's indictment and arrest," Beaty wrote.

In a separate ruling, Beaty allowed a lawsuit by the players' teammates, Ryan McFadyen, Matthew Wilson and Breck Archer.

Though McFadyen, Wilson and Archer were ultimately never charged with a crime, they say that they were improperly investigated.

In addition to many of the same defendants implicated in the first lawsuit, McFadyen, Wilson and Archer also sued Duke University officials for their conduct in the investigation, which included a search of their dorm rooms.

The men claim that Duke police and officials agreed to deliver 47 team members for questioning, photographs and DNA testing. The team's only black player was not tested for DNA, since the accuser said her attackers were white.

Beaty dismissed most of the 40 claims that the non-charged players filed, but he allowed them to pursue obstruction-of-justice claims against Nifong and police investigator Mark Gottlieb.

In this case, Beaty wrote that the players "set out allegations of significant abuses of government power.

"Indeed, the intentional or reckless use of false or misleading evidence before a magistrate judge to obtain a warrant and effect a search and seizure is exactly the type of 'unreasonable' search and seizure the Fourth Amendment is designed to protect against," he added.

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