Perhaps a bit of light on a dark case

by Brian Clarey

On the TV news this weekend I saw footage of a small dog with his head caught in a pipe.

Hilarious, yes. But I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of empathy for the poor little pup.

I’ve poked my nose into the Duke lacrosse case far enough as to render it inextricable. I’m going to follow this ’til they cut the sucker open and we can all see the truth, which cannot, at this point, be anything but ugly.

The only truth right now is that nobody knows what the hell happened that night except for the lads and ladies who were getting down at 610 N. Buchanan Boulevard. And there are enough credibility issues to go around with that lot.

The soup thickens in Durham ‘– indictments, arrests, alibis. The news wires run thick with factoids and spin; the internet is jamming with irate opinions flung as carelessly as beer bottles from the beds of cruising pickup trucks.

There’s something for everybody here: sports, class warfare, race, rich boys, strippers, a prestigious school, booze, an election’… there’s even merchandise, which is moving at an alarming rate due to public support for the team and a few million mooks who want everybody to know that they party like the Duke lacrosse team.

And everybody, it seems, has something to say about it.

Take this comment I got from a guy named Bryce Bowman in Washington, DC, who asked: ‘“When is the last time you sat around and chatted with your friends, and one of them was a stripper, with a kid, not college educated, black, and single’…?’”

I thought: Geez, it’s probably been a couple weeks.

We’ve been close with our friend Lynette for about six years. Her son, who is the most gifted three-year-old athlete I’ve ever seen, is my son’s best friend. We all hang when we can.

And though Lynette now spends her days and nights with her child and her man, she has a past that makes mine look like summer camp.

Lynette worked as a stripper for 10 years in LA, Hawaii and the Carolinas before settling down. She is also a woman of color. When she stopped by my house last week I pulled her into a conversation about the case. I showed her the message boards and the news releases and pulled up the heart-wrenching picture of Collin Finnerty in the courtroom with his father.

‘“Those Irish guys,’” she said.

Being one of ‘“those’” guys myself, I asked her what she meant by that.

‘“When I worked in the club,’” she said, ‘“usually when a redhead freckled guy was coming in he was looking for brown girls.’”

But isn’t that a sweeping generalization? I asked.

‘“It was a conscious decision to have these brown women at the party ‘— it wasn’t an accident,’” she said. ‘“That was a special request. You don’t just send brown girls out unless people ask.’”

And what about the party, I wanted to know. Why didn’t the women bring some security?

‘“She’s 27,’” Lynnette said. ‘“She was in the Navy. When you work a frat party or something like that you figure it’s just a bunch of kids. You can handle them. And you’ve got to pay the security guy.

‘“Strippers are motivated by money,’” she continued. ‘“I think that’s exactly why she went back in [the house] ‘— somebody sweet-talked her with the promise of more money. That’s the only thing I can think of that would get her back in. People compromise themselves for more money all the time.’”

She allowed that financial motivation could be sufficient to induce the woman to lie, as well.

And what about her injuries, I asked, the ones consistent with rape. Could they have happened before she went to work the party?

‘“I personally would never do that’… no dude, you’re not gonna go spread your legs when you’re all aching and hurting down there. That’s your bread and butter.’”

As it stands, the Duke lacrosse case is something of a Rorschach test ‘— because there is compelling evidence from both sides, our opinions say more about ourselves and where we’re coming from than any knowledge we may think we have.

And yet many people feel the need to take a side in this case. The issues touch so many of us that it’s hard to remain objective.

But not for Lynette.

‘“I’m keeping an open mind,’” she said. ‘“I can see how it could happen on both sides. I don’t want to be upset because I blamed these fellows and they didn’t do it or think she was lying and then she wasn’t.’”

As for me’… as dogs will do, I’ve wedged my head just a bit further into the pipe.

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