Friday, June 29, 2007

INNOCENT: Anderson’s Yeager/Pressler Review

"... these three individuals [David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann,] are innocent of these charges."

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, Apr. 11, 2007

Professor and columnist Bill Anderson is one of the few who were out there “early and often” crying “foul” as Mike Nifong’s near-criminal enablers in news organizations, at Duke, and in “rights organizations” helped make possible what the now disgraced and disbarred former DA is being call to account for.

Bill’s just reviewed It’s Not About The Truth: The Untold Story of the Duke Lacrosse Case and the Lives It Shattered, writer Don Yeager and former Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler’s compelling and detailed account of how Duke’s current administrative leaders and many faculty members reacted to the wildly improbable and conflicting claims Crystal Mangum began making in the early morning hours of March 14, 2006.

Bill’s review begins:

For more than a year, the infamous Duke Lacrosse Non-Rape, Non-Kidnapping, and Non-Sexual Assault Case has held front-and-center in the news. Readers . . . know about three lacrosse players being falsely charged with rape and other crimes. The name Michael B. Nifong has become synonymous with prosecutorial abuse and outright lying.

Yet, until [recently], when the North Carolina State Bar disbarred the rogue Nifong and a local judge later unceremoniously kicked him out of his office, only one person had lost his job over this affair: Mike Pressler, the former coach of the Duke University lacrosse team.

Pressler had to endure the lies that he let the team run wild, that he coddled a bunch of racists and rapists, and the unfair symbolism of being the enabler of White Jocks Gone Wild. . . .

The title comes from a statement that Duke Athletic Director Joe Alleva said when he told Pressler that he wanted his resignation. When Pressler said, "We must stand for the truth," Alleva replied, "It’s not about the truth anymore." He went on, "It’s about the integrity of the university, it’s about the faculty, the city, the NAACP, the protesters, and the other interest groups."

Indeed, Alleva said what has become the "truth" about higher education in the United States, that being that while university administrators such as Duke President Richard Brodhead speak of "integrity" and the like, in the end, they try to convince the rest of us that "integrity" does not need the "truth" to accompany it. . . .

If you want to know about the events surrounding the affair, I would highly recommend this book. Granted, I doubt it will be as comprehensive as the upcoming book, Until Proven Innocent by K.C. Johnson and Stuart Taylor, but that book does not come out until September, and while both writers were "insiders" in terms of being fed information from the defense, neither had the ringside seat that Pressler "enjoyed."

The one drawback of the book is that it was hurriedly put together, but given the dates and events and deadlines, that is to be expected. Ironically, the release of the book was June 12, the same day that Nifong’s hearing with the North Carolina State Bar began, so readers of the book already had a sense of the massive crimes that Nifong committed in pursuit of the Great White Lacrosse Players.

In reading this book – which can be done in a day, despite its length – I could not imagine the stress and outright fear that must have been a daily portion of the lives of Mike Pressler and his family. Threatening telephone calls were on the regular menu, as well as signs placed in the yard demanding that the entire team confess to the alleged rape. Finally, in fear for his life and for the lives of his family, his wife and children moved out of the house to a safe place.

But that was not all. Pressler received two threatening emails from Duke student Chauncey Nartey, a black student who had been born in Africa, and was a favorite among the Duke administration. For writing an email that threatened Pressler’s daughter, Brodhead "punished" Nartey by having him attend Duke functions as an example of a "prized" student at the university. (Yes, the administration requested that Nartey "apologize," but he faced no discipline.)

No, one cannot make up this stuff. By the time Brodhead canceled the team’s season on April 5, as well as firing Pressler, the lacrosse players already were on the run.

If they went to class, professors outright accused them of being rapists – in front of other students. Even being on campus meant having to run a gauntlet of cursing and screaming students, as well as wanted posters with their pictures and signs demanding that they be castrated.

To make matters worse, 88 faculty members signed an advertisement in the April 6 Duke Chronicle that all-but-declared the team to be rapists, and that Duke University was little more than a repository for the Ku Klux Klan. It was the madness that seems to infect elite universities in full flower.

About a month before the infamous March 13 lacrosse team party, the leftists on the Harvard University faculty drove out Harvard President Lawrence Summers for some mildly controversial remarks made during a conference presentation. No doubt, Brodhead did not want to anger Duke’s vocal radical faculty members, so he did the convenient thing: he threw the players and their coach under the bus.

The craven attitudes at Duke were not limited to Alleva, Brodhead, and the radical faculty. John Burness, the corpulent Duke vice president, according to the book, regularly slimed the players and Pressler in "off-the-record" remarks to the press.
Thus, reporters were told that the players were "bad actors," with the coach having been warned the year before that his team was a "train wreck waiting to happen."

Unfortunately for Burness, there was no "train wreck" document. The year before, Duke lost in the NCAA championship game by one goal against Johns Hopkins (the same fate that befell the team this year), and the Duke administration awarded Pressler with a big raise and a long-term contract. It was not a team "out of control" by any means.
I hope you read the entire review which you'll find here. Bill offers a lot of telling details from the book and adds his own pungent commentary.

BTW - I’ve just read the Yeager/Pressler book and will be commenting on it starting in a few days.

Here’s purchase information ---

It’s Not About The Truth: The Untold Story of the Duke Lacrosse Case and the Lives It Shattered by Don Yeager with Mike Pressler. New York: Threshold Editions. The book list for $25.

It's widely available in bookstores and can be ordered through Amazon.


Anonymous said...

Just finished. Anderson is right about it being chaotically "organized" but still worth the read. And Janet Pressler's letter to Dick Brodhead is indeed the gem everyone says it is.

-- No, not that Glenn

Anonymous said...

I won't be able to read that book - it would make me want to stomp around the house for three hours.


The Browns in Huntersville said...

Finished the book tonight; looking forward to others. Reading this book really irked. The lack of leadership at Duke beyond Pressler was appalling. It is apparent that the Duke administration forget that they are educators of students. The letter at the end was amazing. How the Duke trustees can allow Broadhead to continue in his current role or for that matter Burness is beyond my understanding.

JWM said...

Anon @ 4:39,

I don't understand "No, not that Glenn."

That excepted, I agree with what you say.

AC @ 5:29,

I know other people here in Durham who know what happened to the Presslers are say they can't read the book for fear of getting upset.

The Browns @ 11:11,

Yes, the lack of leadership really stands out. And I don't mean to put words in your mouths but I'm betting that by "lack of leadership" one of the things you mean is the absence of acts of simple decency by top Duke administrators.

Thank you all three for commenting.


Anonymous said...

So Bill Anderson liked the Pressler book. What a surprise.