Monday, August 11, 2008

Brodhead helped Seligmann? Where’s the evidence?

An Aug. 6 Durham Herald Sun story, “Duke helped lacrosse player transfer to Brown,” under Ray Gronberg’s byline begins:

The Durham Herald Sun reported Charlotte attorney Jim Cooney shed some insight Tuesday into Duke President Richard Brodhead's involvement with one of the university's three lacrosse players falsely accused of rape in 2006.

Brodhead "personally assisted Reade [Seligmann] in transferring" to Brown University after the players' exoneration, by going "out of his way to contact the right people," writing letters of support and doing "everything he could to make sure Reade landed at a good school," Cooney said.

Without Brodhead's help and similar backing from a couple of Duke professors, "Reade wouldn't have ended up at Brown," he said. …
Cooney and his law firm, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, have often represented Duke.

Cooney also represented Seligmann for a portion of the time the then Duke sophomore was under indictment as a result of a frame-up attempt by now disbarred former Durham DA Mike Nifong and others.

In this post University of Maryland law professor Jason Trumpbour considers how Cooney was able to represent Seligmann in light of his representation of Duke in other cases.

Now what about all this help Cooney says Brodhead gave Seligmann without which, the H-S reports, Cooney said, "Reade wouldn't have ended up at Brown[?]"

On Aug. 7 the H-S published “Seligmann unaware of Duke help,” which like the previous day’s story, carried Ray Gronberg’s byline.

The Aug. 7 story began:
If Duke University President Richard Brodhead indeed helped Reade Seligmann transfer to Brown University last year, he did so largely without the exonerated lacrosse player's knowledge, Seligmann and one of his civil lawyers say.

Seligmann "knows of no support that Brodhead gave him at Brown," lawyer Richard Emery said Wednesday after his office e-mailed a statement from his client to The Herald-Sun. "Whether that happened behind his back, he can't be sure. It may have happened, but he doesn't know about it." . . .

In the statement Emery's office released Wednesday, Seligmann said it's his "clear recollection" that one of the last two times Brodhead communicated with him or his family was to wish them happy holidays late in 2006.

The Duke president also called to say he'd reinstated Seligmann at Duke, Seligmann said, without specifying when that occurred. Duke formally announced the reinstatement on Jan. 3, 2007.

Paralleling Cooney's comments, Seligmann said he was "aware of one letter I was told Mr. Brodhead wrote on my behalf," though neither he nor his family had ever seen it.

Emery said Seligmann doesn't know what the letter said, who received it or even if it went to officials at Brown.

"Nobody ever communicated to him anything specific about any letter," Emery said. "There was some general knowledge that Brodhead was writing a letter to assertively help him. But [that knowledge] was very general and very vague."

Emery, who's based in New York City, also said he and Seligmann "have no knowledge, one way or another," to say whether Brodhead did or didn't make any calls on the student's behalf.

The lawyer added that he thinks Duke should help "set the record straight" by opening its records on the matter. ...
KC Johnson posted concerning Cooney’s claims and Seligmann and Emery’s response. He’s highly dubious about Brodhead’s purported letter on Seligmann’s behalf:
What would such a letter have entailed? To have actually been of assistance to Seligmann, any such letter would have needed, at the very least, to address Brodhead’s (false) April 5, 2006 statement that Seligmann was part of a group that had been subject of reports of racist behavior; and his (seemingly defamatory) April 20, 2006 statement that even if Seligmann and Finnerty were innocent, “whatever they did was bad enough.”

Seligmann attorney Richard Emery said that Duke should “set the record straight” and release relevant records. The response of a Duke spokesperson: “Student privacy laws constrain us from discussing such matters.”

But in this case, the student—Seligmann—has waived his privacy rights. So, Duke’s official position is that it can’t release the alleged Brodhead letter because of privacy rights that the student himself has waived?

Such a position would suggest that either: (a) no letter exists; or (b) Duke doesn’t want the contents of the letter to see the light of day.
Cooney and Duke have created a very peculiar situation.

Cooney, who is now representing it in a suit brought by another Duke student-athlete (not a lacrosse player), tells the Herald Sun Brodhead wrote a letter on Seligmann’s behalf; and what’s more, without Brodhead’s help "Reade wouldn't have ended up at Brown."

Seligmann and one of his current attorneys say they know of no such help from Brodhead and have never seen any letter he wrote on Seligmann’s behalf. They add they’d be happy for Duke to make the letter public.

But Duke says it can’t do that. It invokes “student privacy rights” even though the student has apparently waived his privacy rights in this matter.


An attorney retained by Duke is quoted in a newspaper making lavish claims about help Brodhead purportedly gave Seligmann at the same time Duke says it can’t release the letter the attorney says was such a central part of the help Brodhead provided Seligmann. Does that make sense to you?

It Brodhead’s purported letter and other actions on Seligmann’s behalf are covered by student privacy, why is Cooney talking about them to the press?

If Seligmann has waived his privacy rights in this matter, what’s stopping Duke from releasing the letter immediately?

And finally, does Cooney know why Brodhead never spoke out in May 2006 when racists outside and within the Durham County Courthouse shouted threats at Seligmann, including death threats?


Anonymous said...

Typical MoveOn.Duke tactics. We're the good guys and if you don't believe it, we'll tell you again. Brodhead is a good guy. It was all Nifong. Blah, blah, blah. Now shut up and go away and leave of us alone.

The only thing I wonder about is whether Brodhead and the others actually believe they are the good guys. They did the right thing. That they have no shame, no regrets, they feel no guilt, that's what baffles me.

Brodhead wants to take credit for Seligmann getting into Brown??? Only if you consider the reason he went to Brown was because Brodhead ran him out of Duke. Thanks Dick.

The expression "dream on" comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

The only thing that I can think of - vis-a-vis the privacy rights is that since the supposed letter was written without Seligmann's authorization, the privacy rights may pertain to Broadhead, not to Seligmann. However, I am not an attorney so my knowledge of such issues is slim.

Anonymous said...

Someone on the FODU board said that if Seligmann waived his privacy rights, Duke would have to release the letter.

Anonymous said...

On this subject, KC just put up a fine post on how the media still underplays the shoddy treatment of the lacrosse players.

Anonymous said...

John -

This letter, if it exists, would seem ripe for discovery, just to see what Brodhead said in it.

Jack in Silver spring

Anonymous said...

Either Brown and/or Duke has the letter. I am sure it could be subpoenaed in the civil case. Phone calls are not something that are recoverable.

Anonymous said...

Cooney appears to be a typical lawyer; he'll represent anyone as long as he get money or fame. An old friend used to tell me there's a good reason "lawyer" and "liar" sound alike. When Cooney acted on behalf of Seligman, I thought he was a principled man, now he's in league with Brodhead. It looks like the same old shell game lawyers are so good at. He knows Brodhead and his crowd at Duke are a pack of hyenas, yet he now speaks on their behalf.
Tarheel Hawkeye