Re-visiting Two More Higher Profile Cases In Collegiate Sports

By Gregory Moore
Updated: October 8, 2006

Sam Ashaolu

Sam Ashaolu

SAN ANTONIO � It�s been a few weeks since any really big news has come out of the Duquesne shooting story and it has definitely been some months since anyone has written anything about the Duke lacrosse case. Both of these stories were big headliners when they came forth but to date they are little more than �Page 12� snippets for the majority of the sports world.

But they need to be stories that remind us that somehow college students are real people too and that all to often stories like these happen even if athletic participants are involved. This week, I wanted to just write a few lines that updated everyone on what�s going on in those two cases.

In the Duquesne shooting case, the police have cleared one suspect but four suspects are now ordered to stand trial. When the story was first reported, Brandon Baynes was thought to have been a part of the shooting as a gunman. In the original op/ed that I wrote, Baynes was arrested along with William Holmes.

Well today, as I write this update, Mr. Baynes has been cleared by the Pittsburgh Police and all charges have been dropped. Reports that he will cooperate with prosecutors were also mentioned.

That�s good news for Mr. Baynes. No one wants to see an innocent young man go to jail for something he didn�t do. However as good news goes, there is now bad news for some others. In the same reports that I looked at, two more people have been arrested, charged and bail has been set; one woman and another man. Erica R. Sager, 18, of Wilkinsburg and Derek Lee, 18, of Pittsburgh.

Lee has been identified by witnesses as being one of the shooters in the Sept. 17th incident. Bail has not been set for him as of this printing. Sager has been identified by witnesses as an antagonist who urged Holmes and Lee to start shooting. She was identified from a line up. Her bond has been set at $1 million.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Sam Ashaolu, 23, the most severely injured of the five Duquesne basketball players shot on campus Sept. 17, remained in serious condition in Mercy Hospital. Doctors did remove one of several small bullet fragments from his head, said his brother John Ashaolu.

Sam Ashaolu was struck in the head by two bullets; one remained intact while another broke into three pieces. Both bullets remain lodged in his head. On Thursday, Ashaolu was upgraded from critical to serious condition after becoming more oriented and briefly saying a few words.

“It hasn’t changed, his condition hasn’t changed since then,” John Ashaolu said from his Pittsburgh hotel room. “His condition, right now, is the same.”

That�s good news to hear and hopefully more will continue for this young man. BASN will continue to monitor this story.

The next story that hasn�t received much attention is the Duke lacrosse story. This story has been a firestorm in the beginning but the embers are barely burning since the story first broke.

The latest news lines of this story are the following: Suspects not getting due process, DA says attack took ten minutes, Witness sentenced in unrelated case.

So what do we know about this case since it was last visited? Exactly what I put in those headline blurbs. According to various op/eds, the suspects in the case may not be getting due process in this case.

On, one commentator wrote: The Duke Lacrosse case, in which three white male students are accused of raping a black woman last March, is also a case about race, class conflict and political ambition. For me, the case has become a litmus test for the American justice system.

I believe the accused are blatantly innocent and that the prosecuting District Attorney Mike Nifong is acting with willful disregard for both the evidence in the case and the Constitutional rights of the accused. In this case, I believe the legal system is the enemy of justice…and nakedly so.

How naked? Consider one of the suspects, Reade Seligmann. He is scheduled to be tried on three felony charges despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence: exculpatory DNA tests, a corroborated alibi, a string of contradictory statements by his accuser and an irredeemably tainted I.D.

The assumption that a defendant is ‘innocent until proven guilty’ has been reversed. Seligmann is assumed to be guilty. But more than this. It is as though Seligmann is not allowed to prove his innocence no matter how much evidence he produces.

Those words were written by Wendy McElroy, the editor of and a research fellow for The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. That is the words from one person but Ms. McElroy may be echoing the voice of many others in the Durham area.

In another story, the District Attorney says that the attack took all of ten minutes. District Attorney Mike Nifong is being quoted by the Associated Press saying, �When something happens to you that is really awful, it can seem like it takes place longer than it actually takes.� Here is more of the AP story as reported by CBS News�s website: Kirk Osborn, who represents Seligmann, said the defense needed the “bill of particulars” because the accuser has told several different versions of the alleged assault, and his client has a right to know which version prosecutors will present at trial.

In search and arrest warrants issued early in the investigation, police stated the accuser told investigators she was assaulted for 30 minutes.

Nifong said he is not required to state the exact time of the alleged attack, but offered that authorities believe it took place between 11:30 p.m. on March 13, when the accuser arrived at the party, and 12:55 a.m. on March 14, when police arrived and found no one at the house.

Friday’s hearing was the first since Smith was appointed to take over the case.

Before the hearing began, Nifong gave defense lawyers 615 pages of evidence, a compact disc and a cassette tape. He said it included much of what was requested by defense lawyers, who had asked for handwritten notes from police officers involved with the case, reports outlining procedures used at the labs that tested the DNA of the players and notes from a mental health facility where police took the accuser after the party.

The defense has said those DNA tests failed to find a conclusive match between the three players and the accuser.

Defense attorneys also provided the judge with a description of the procedures used by a polling company they hired to survey Durham residents about the case. Nifong has asked the court to stop the polling, but the defense insists it is harmless.

“It’s like taking a teaspoon and dipping it into the swimming pool. We just want to see what the teaspoon will reveal,” said Wade Smith, an attorney for Colin Finnerty.

So what can we make of this story and the feelings down in Durham? How about it�s a mess that isn�t going to be fixed anytime soon?

I got an e-mail from a defense lawyer when the story first broke out and he told me that as things went along, I would probably be singing a different tune as to whether a crime was committed or not. Well as far as I�m concerned, something inappropriate went on in that house and at least three Duke players knew what happened.

Now whether they want to fess up and tell the world, that�s a different story. I�m not going to say that the victim is some angel because she isn�t but I�m not going to portray her as just another piece of human trash that had to use her body to make money either. People do things for different reasons.

But this case has been dragging for quite some time and it is quite interesting to read the bits and pieces of an embattled DA trying to win a case that may not be very winnable in the end.

This story will continue to be watched as well as there are some social implications that will probably come forth and need to be addressed. Stay tuned folks. It�s going to be very interesting indeed.