Friday, April 28, 2006

Hardly Black and White

If you think you know everything there is to know about the Duke lacrosse rape allegations, think again. Just when I'd begun to think that weekly news magazines were completely useless in this day and age, Newsweek has written a brilliant piece about the case that is sending shockwaves through America. I've followed this scandal closely since it broke a few weeks ago (partially because I'm a scandal junkie, partially because of work I do), but not even Dan Abrams -- who has been quite thorough in his reporting -- has uncovered details Newsweek has dug up.

Notably, Newsweek has found out that the other stripper working that night, Kim Roberts, first told a lawyer she'd contacted that she did not think the other dancer had been raped: She was mad at the other stripper, who was almost passed out in the car and not talking. Roberts said she had not collected all the money owed them for the dance, and she wondered if the other dancer was somehow hustling her. Later when this lawyer shared her story with other lawyers, she became livid. "I feel like he preyed on my naivete," she told NEWSWEEK. "I don't want someone to play me like I'm stupid." Shortly thereafter, she had a change of heart about her feelings about whether her co-stripper was lying and turned to 5W Public Relations in New York, which represents the rapper Lil' Kim (the dancer says she is a huge fan of Lil' Kim's). An e-mail she sent to the firm begins, "Hi! My name is Kim and I am involved in the Duke Lacrosse scandal." She goes on, "Although I am no celebrity and just an average citizen, I've found myself at the center of one of the biggest stories in the country. I'm worried about letting this opportunity pass me by without making the best of it and was wondering if you had any advice as to how to spin this to my advantage."

The PR agency released the e-mail to the press. According to the Associated Press, which interviewed Roberts, she "took umbrage at the notion that she should not try to make something out of her experience. She's worried that once her name and criminal record are public, no one will want to hire her. 'Why shouldn't I profit from it?' she asked. 'I didn't ask to be in this position ... I would like to feed my daughter'." (Meantime, the alleged victim's father cannot shut up on television and seems to be damaging his daughter's chance of getting a fair trial in exchange for his own 15 minutes of "fame."

Court records obtained by AP and by NEWSWEEK show that Kim Roberts was on probation from a 2001 conviction for embezzling $25,000 from a photofinishing company where she worked, helping to keep payroll records. On March 22, eight days after the alleged rape, Kim spent two hours in jail for breaking the terms of her probation (she had left the state, her attorney says, to visit her sick father). She posted $25,000 bond and on March 30 found a lawyer, Mark Simeon. NEWSWEEK then goes on to untangle a very suspicious relationship between this lawyer (Simeon) and the DA who is prosecuting this case, Mike Nifong.

Some truly exceptional reporting in this week's NEWSWEEK.

  • Read: What Happened at Duke?
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