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Duke Lacrosse Prosecutor Reports to Jail

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AARON BEARD | September 7, 2007 07:37 PM EST | AP

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DURHAM, N.C. — The prosecutor who led the now-discredited Duke lacrosse rape case reported to jail Friday to begin serving a 24-hour sentence for contempt of court. The city, meanwhile, was in settlement talks with the three exonerated players.

According to a person close to the case, attorneys for the three players are seeking a $30 million settlement from Durham and reforms in the legal process.

If the terms aren't met, they will file a civil rights lawsuit early next month, the person told The Associated Press on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the proposed settlement wasn't complete.

The former Durham district attorney at the heart of the case, Mike Nifong, declined to speak with reporters as he arrived at the jail Friday. He was disbarred for ethics violations in his handling of the case, and a judge found him in contempt for lying to the court when he insisted he had given defense attorneys all results from critical DNA tests.

A small group of supporters accompanied Nifong with signs reading, "We believe in your integrity and goodness."

A handful of hecklers also met him at the jail. One woman shouted out: "Justice works!"

The case involved three university lacrosse players who were accused of raping a woman who had been hired to strip at a team party in 2006. Nifong pursued the case and won indictments, but the charges were eventually thrown out by state prosecutors who declared the players innocent victims of a "tragic rush to accuse."

Durham's police department has also come under criticism.

The police helped Nifong secure the indictments, and a special committee probing police handling of the case stopped working last month because the city's liability insurance provider warned that findings could provide material for civil lawsuits.

Attorneys Brendan Sullivan and Barry Scheck met Wednesday with Durham officials to discuss the possible settlement with the players. They stressed that the money _ about $10 million each for David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann over five years _ must be accompanied by legal reforms, the person close to the case told AP.

The attorneys are seeking the creation of ombudsman positions to review complaints of misconduct about North Carolina district attorneys, and they want Durham city officials to lead the lobbying for any legal changes that would require action by the state's General Assembly, the person said.

City Attorney Henry Blinder and City Manager Patrick Baker briefed elected officials on the settlement discussions Thursday, according to The Herald-Sun of Durham, which first reported on the settlement demands. It said the city has a $5 million liability insurance policy with a $500,000 deductible.

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Associated Press Writer Martha Waggoner contributed to this report.