The Duke lacrosse rape case finally collapsed Wednesday, with North Carolina's top prosecutor saying the three athletes were railroaded by a district attorney who ignored increasingly flimsy evidence in a "tragic rush to accuse."
In a blistering assessment of the case, Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped all charges against the players, all but ensuring that only one person in the whole scandal will be held to account: Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong.
"This case shows the enormous consequences of overreaching by a prosecutor," Cooper said.
Cooper, who took over the case in January after Nifong was charged with ethics violations that could get him disbarred, said his own investigation into a stripper's claim that she was sexually assaulted at a team party found nothing to corroborate her story, and "led us to the conclusion that no attack occurred."
"There were many points in the case where caution would have served justice better than bravado," Cooper said. "In the rush to condemn, a community and a state lost the ability to see clearly."
Later, at an often-bitter, I-told-you-so news conference, the three young men and their lawyers accused the news media and the public of disregarding the presumption of innocence and portraying them as thugs.
For the many, many prosecutors throughout the county who cringed at Nifong's grotesque mishandling of the case, this is also a vindication of sorts.