This is one of the most encouraging things I've read in a while. An innocent young man whose life was nearly destroyed by a vicious rape lie is planning to pursue a career in law so that he may help other innocent people who have been victimised by the system.
Exonerating others now focus of former Duke lacrosse player Reade Seligmann
Four years later, the moment that ripped his world apart has given him direction to help others.
Four years later, the scared kid from Essex Fells who was falsely charged in the notorious Duke lacrosse rape case is gone, replaced with a confident young man already working to change the legal system.
Remember Reade Seligmann?
His mug shot was plastered on the cover of Newsweek four springs ago with the headline: “Sex, Lies and Duke.” He was facing 30 years in prison for a crime he did not commit — a crime, it was later proven, that never took place.
He will graduate from Brown University today. Seligmann, now 24, will leave the Ivy League school with a joint degree in history and public policy and attend law school in the fall, where he will pursue a career focused on reducing the number of innocent people behind bars.
People like him.
“It’s almost like I’ve lived an entire new life in the last four years,” he said Saturday. “A lot of great things have happened for me and my family. It’s been quite a ride, to say the least.”
Seligmann was in his apartment at Brown, letting his father, Phil, pack up the boxes to prepare for the move back to New Jersey this week. His former team was about to play Virginia in the Final Four, but he wasn’t sure how much of the game he’d have time to watch.
In another lifetime, his biggest goal was to be on that field. That vanished on April 18, 2006, when police in Durham, N.C., arrested him and another teammate on charges of rape, sexual offense and kidnapping. A third teammate was later charged, and the case was a fixture on cable news for months.
In the “tragic rush to accuse,” as the North Carolina attorney general would later describe it, Seligmann lost his team, his school, and — he thought — his dreams. But the moment that could have broken him made him stronger.
Seligmann and his teammates were exonerated one year later, but the false identification that attached those heinous crimes to his name also gave his life a new direction.
“When you have something like that taken away,” Seligmann said, “you have a chance to sit back and say, ‘Wow, look how lucky I am to have all these opportunities before me.’ ”
Seligmann started working with the Innocence Project, a non-profit group dedicated to exonerating wrongly convicted people and reforming the system. He spent part of his senior year at Brown organizing a symposium on witness identification in Rhode Island.
The forum brought together officials from the state police, the attorney general’s office and the Innocence Project, and as a result of his efforts, all three groups are discussing changes that will standardize how witness identifications are handled in the state.
He also has helped raise nearly $50,000 for the cause, receiving a major humanitarian award from the Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association in the process.
“I’d like to say I’m a noble guy and I would have done all that stuff,” Seligmann said, “but I probably wouldn’t have gotten involved in that if my life hadn’t been so impacted by a similar cause.”
It hasn’t always been an easy journey. Seligmann admits he arrived at Brown and settled for mediocre grades his first year, and he struggled to find his game as an Ivy League player.
But he was named an Academic All-American off the field this season and first-team All Ivy League on it. His lacrosse career ended this weekend in the North-South Game in Baltimore, where he saw a familiar face on the opposing team.
It was Collin Finnerty, one of the other two falsely accused Duke players, finishing his career with Loyola. They traded jokes and smiles as they played against each other for the first time.
“It was a really funny way to end our careers,” Seligmann said, “because four years ago, we were in an entirely different place.”
Four years ago, Seligmann figured he’d be heading to law school, but to get a high-paying job at a major firm. Now, as he accepts his diploma, his priorities have changed.
Now, the scared kid from Essex Fells who had his innocence stolen is gone, replaced by a confident young man who wants to keep that from happening to as many people as he can.