Former Duke lacrosse player finds redemption
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The Long Island native, then a sophomore, was hit with criminal charges, had to drop out of school, endured mudslinging from a publicity-hungry prosecutor and became the focal point of a national debate about racism and privilege at the prestigious university.
But four years and one tossed case later, Finnerty is still cradling his lacrosse stick — co-captaining Loyola College's nationally ranked team.
"They welcomed me with open arms, despite the fact that the case was still going on," Finnerty said of his decision to attend Loyola.
He, Reade Seligmann and Dave Evans were charged with rape, kidnapping and sexual assault on April 18, 2006, by Durham, N.C., District Attorney Mike Nifong.
It took a year and an investigation by the North Carolina attorney general before the three young men were exonerated. Nifong was later disbarred for withholding exculpatory DNA evidence.
During the year in limbo, Finnerty volunteered at the 9/11 charity Tuesday's Children and the Boomer Esiason Foundation. He also helped coach lacrosse at his high school alma mater, Chaminade, on Long Island.
Finnerty considered returning to Duke but felt it was better to move on. He enrolled at Loyola because he hit it off with the lacrosse team's coach, Charley Toomey. The team is 8-2 so far this season.
"Some of the schools held back and were apprehensive," he said.
An emotional moment came when he traveled to Duke to face off in a playoff game against his former teammates.
"After going through so much for a year, being back at Duke was kind of like going back to the heart of the case," he said. "It brought back a lot of mixed emotions."
He declined to comment directly on the dropped rape case — but he, Seligmann and Evans are suing for $30 million each.