- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A lawyer representing one of the Duke lacrosse players has taken to portraying the accused as victims, which is straight out of the Oprah playbook.

It seems we are all victims of something or another these days, even if we have been charged with first-degree forcible rape, sexual offense and kidnapping, as is the legal situation before the three Duke lacrosse players: David Evans of Bethesda, Collin Finnerty of Garden City, N.Y., and Reade Seligmann of Essex Fells, N.J.

All three could be innocent of raping an exotic dancer during a party at an off-campus home in Durham, N.C., in March. That, really, is the only question in this sordid tale, although the usual suspects have used the elements of race and class to push various agendas that have nothing to do with the charges.

Mr. Evans fits the Duke stereotype of privilege, as if coming from a high-achieving family is somehow a bad thing. His mother is a Washington lobbyist, his father a lawyer, and he attended Landon School, an all-boys prep academy in Bethesda.

This is what smart parents do. They try to put their children in the best possible position to succeed in life. But in this case, the good fortune of the Duke families is an instrument to be used against them.

You see, Duke’s students have a snobby air about them. Maybe they think they are just a little bit better than everyone else. And maybe their sense of entitlement is so powerful that it could lead to despicable actions against an exotic dancer.

That is a nice theory, and it will be up to the district attorney to prove what appears to be a challenging case. If the three are found guilty, then they should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Otherwise, too much of the commentary has bordered on the goofy.

It is not the fault of Duke University officials that the campus sits in a hardscrabble town of the working class. It is not the fault of Duke University officials that their institution is judged to be an elite one. Isn’t that a good thing? The contrast between the offspring of the elite studying in the environs of the have-nots is compelling. But what of it? Duke is a learning center, not a counseling service. Its role in the community is a limited one. It cannot walk into the home of the misguided and say, “Perhaps it is not a good idea to be hanging out with a crack pipe.” Can you imagine the outcry if Duke’s officials started an outreach program intended to show the unenlightened of Durham how to lead their lives? Why, there soon would be a line of folks saying, “Who are you to tell someone that being an exotic dancer is a bad career move?” There are two bad ideas in this case.

It is a bad idea to be an exotic dancer, and it is a bad idea to invite one to a party stuffed with a bunch of intoxicated young men. That is a combustible combination just looking for a bad ending, not unlike the “Love Boat” escapades involving the Minnesota Vikings last year.

And that is why it is difficult to see Mr. Evans as a victim, even if he is innocent, as he claims. He was one of the three team captains who lived in the home where the party took place.

We can assume he took part in the planning of the party, including the “entertainment” factor. We also can assume that Mr. Evans, as a senior and team captain, could have questioned the appropriateness of hiring exotic dancers if he had been inclined.

Yet that is a considerable distance from Mr. Evans being guilty as charged. We don’t know.

But, we do know he is not automatically guilty because he comes from a high-achieving family, attended good schools and was a quality student athlete.

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