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When accusations began flying in March that members of the Duke University lacrosse team had raped an exotic dancer at a team party, one player, Bethesda, Md., native John Walsh, didn’t have to think twice about whom to turn to for legal advice. His choice was clear: His second cousin is Robert Bennett, a former attorney for President Bill Clinton and a partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. The Walshes weren’t the only family concerned about how the allegations would shake out, so Bennett agreed to talk strategy with them and other players’ families, pro bono. (Five team members are local men who attended the Landon School, an all-boys private school in Bethesda. One player, Peter Lamade, is the son of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld partner Lawrence Lamade.) The discussions with Bennett were the genesis of the Committee for Fairness to Duke Families, a group of parents who wanted to combat what they felt was “a rush to judgment that everyone was guilty,” Walsh’s father, John, says, “A lot of people associate: Bob Bennett’s involved, you’re in real trouble. But that wasn’t meant to be.” But before the group got into gear, Durham, N.C., District Attorney Mike Nifong started bringing charges. Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty were indicted in April, and then, last week, another Bethesda native, David Evans, was charged with rape. The families say the move prompted them to focus less on public relations work with Bennett and more on supporting the players under scrutiny. “These three indicted boys could have been any of our children, because no one did this,” says Sally Fogarty, a Duke alum whose son Gibbs is also on the Duke team. Even though Evans isn’t getting counsel from Bennett, he’s certainly not without sophisticated guidance. In addition to his North Carolina lawyer, Joseph Cheshire, Evans was flanked by his parents at a May 15 press conference in Durham. His father, David Evans, is a partner at Reed Smith’s D.C. office and a former managing partner for the region who has lobbied for trade associations such as the Brick Industry Association and the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. His mother, Rae Evans, is a lobbyist at the firm she founded, Evans Capitol Group, and chair of the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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