LAWFUEL – The legal Newswire – As Michael B. Nifong, the disgraced former prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse rape case, reported to jail in Durham, N.C., yesterday to serve 24 hours for criminal contempt, the three students he accused were in talks with the city for a settlement of $30 million and a package of law enforcement changes.
A person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the details of the settlement proposal. If the city refuses, the students are threatening to file a civil rights lawsuit.
The changes requested by the students and their lawyers include oversight of the police department by an independent commission, stricter procedures and videotaping of witness identifications conducted by the police, and the passage of a City Council resolution calling on the state to establish ombudsmen for district attorney’s offices and require the transcription of grand jury proceedings.
“These families are absolutely adamant” that the settlement must include law enforcement changes, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations are continuing.
Beverly B. Thompson, a spokeswoman for the city, declined to discuss the talks, which were first reported by The Durham Herald-Sun.
Barry Scheck and Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., the lawyers representing the three lacrosse players, made the settlement proposal at a meeting Wednesday, where city representatives were shown a copy of a civil rights complaint to be filed next month if no progress has been made on negotiations. On Thursday, members of the City Council were briefed on the meeting.
The suit would be filed against Mr. Nifong, the Durham Police Department and other participants in the investigation. The city is potentially liable because of the police department’s involvement in bringing proceedings against the students.
The proposal, which calls for $10 million for each player, could put the city in a financial bind, because its insurance policy covers only $5 million for “wrongful action,” with a $500,000 deductible.
The players — David F. Evans, 24; Collin Finnerty, 20; and Reade W. Seligmann, 21 — have already received an undisclosed sum from Duke University. They have spent an estimated $3 million on their defense, according to a nonprofit organization formed to raise money for their legal fees.