Breaking: Durham D.A. drops rape charges against Duke lacrosse players; Update: Press conference video added

But the kidnapping and sexual offense charges remain.

Joseph Cheshire and attorneys for the other players have said for months the woman told several different versions of the alleged assault.

Cheshire said Friday that the accuser now says she does not know if she was penetrated, which he said led District Attorney Mike Nifong to dismiss the rape charges.

I haven’t followed the case at all and was planning to ignore the news, but then I got an e-mail from the boss reminding me that the story was breaking. Hint hint.

And so here we are.

Have any of you followed this closely? All I know is that apparently DNA from a number of men was found inside the accuser after the attack; that none of it matches the defendants’; and that D.A. Nifong allegedly conspired to cover up that fact. Susan Estrich calls it an “extreme case of lawlessness by the prosecutors” that warrants Nifong being replaced by the court.

In other words, they’re being railroaded. Anything else I need to know?

Update: Wikipedia to the rescue. Start here and keep scrolling.

Update: In the comments, Slublog questions the timing. Me too.

Update: Betsy Newmark asks a good question — after all that’s happened, how does Nifong expect to prove the remaining charges beyond a reasonable doubt? Does he have smoking-gun evidence of kidnapping and sexual battery? If not, they’ll walk for sure.

Durham native Mary K thinks it’s all about the politics:

It’s Durham. It’s full of a bunch of liberal white people who love to get yelled at by black people and a bunch of liberal black people who are happy to oblige them. This story scratched that white guilt itch soooo good, they just couldn’t let it go, even though it was pretty clear from the beginning that the story was a little off.

The national media liked the white, privileged lax boys rape hard-working exotic dancer single mom story, and they ran with it, too. As a result, many lives, seasons, careers, and a successful sports program have been seriously messed with by a D.A. who couldn’t back off on the narrative, either, lest he feel the wrath at the ballot box from those whom he denied their white guilt orgy.

Slublog says Duke’s president is finished.

Update: The defendants’ lawyers held a press conference late this afternoon. One of them addressed Nifong directly.

Update: The video’s not working as I write this. I apologize for that. It’s because our hosting company is unreliable. The problem should resolve itself in a few minutes.

Update: The heat is on and Duke’s president is getting out of the kitchen: he’s called for Nifong’s resignation.