Lacrosse party dancer still claims assault

http://www.newsobserver.com/news/crime_safety/duke_lacrosse/story/1265609.html
 
DURHAM - The escort service dancer who claimed she was raped by members of the Duke University lacrosse team described herself today as wrongly maligned and insisted that she had wanted only justice.

Crystal Gail Mangum appeared at a news conference to promote a book about her life. She continued to say that she was assaulted in March 2006 at a lacrosse team party where she had been hired to dance.

"I am still claiming that a sexual assault happened," she said. But she declined to go into detail, and she brushed aside a question about what she would say to the players.

"I have no comments about the details of the case," she said, adding later, "There's no point in going into that, because the trial will never happen. So what's the point? I just don't see the point."

Joe Cheshire, one of the defense lawyers for the players, said this afternoon that Mangun is being used by the people who helped her create the book.

"Her press conference and her continued assertion that an assault happened is really pathetic," Cheshire said.

"She says she's writing this book to help other people, and what she's continuing to do by lying is continuing to hurt people, including women who really are victims of sexual assault. She's clearly doing this to make money. By continuing to lie, she makes everything in the book, everything she says, a lie."

State Attorney General Roy Cooper dismissed charges against three players last year, declaring them innocent. Cooper said at the time that Mangum "may actually believe the many different stories that she has been telling."

Mangum, 30, who graduated from N.C. Central University, said she hopes to get a PhD from the University of Georgia and open a group home for troubled girls. She appeared today in a neat gray suit and stylishly-cut hair, far different from her stumbling image in photos taken at the team party.

Mangum, who has suffered from alcohol abuse and mental problems, said she wrote the book for closure and to help others.

"I don't mind, I guess, being sort of a sacrifice to help others as long as I can share my experience in a positive way," she said.

She wiped away tears at times, saying, "A lot of things went wrong in my case."

She said she wanted to be known for more than the lacrosse case. "This is very difficult for me, but this is something I have to do," she said.

"God has given me the grace and the courage to stand up. ... I'm a real person. I have feelings. I'm not just an ex-dancer. I'm not just someone who tried to frame someone who is innocent of sexual assault. My only intentions were for justice, and I wanted justice for myself."

The memoir, "The Last Dance for Grace. The Crystal Mangum Story," is being promoted by its co-author, Vincent "Ed" Clark, a former columnist for The Chapel Hill News and a self-employed publicist. Clark said the self-published book will be available through his Web site at midnight on a print-by-demand basis.

Clark said Mangum had tried to "push back against the tide of public opinion by herself" and had given interviews to television networks that never aired. "She has tried on a number of occasions to talk about her life and the sad night her life ended ... because she's a new person today," Clark said.

In excerpts released today, Mangum says: "Even as I try to move on with my life, I still find it necessary to take one more stand and fight.

"I want to assert, without equivocation, that I was assaulted. Make of that what you will. You will decide what that means to you because the state of North Carolina saw fit not to look at all that happened the night I became infamous."

In the book, Mangum also says that her story "has never changed" and that some of those who participated in discrediting her were motivated by race.

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