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Cab ride could be key to rape defense

Lawyers: Suspect was picked up before time of alleged attack



North Carolina
Sex Crimes
Duke University

DURHAM, North Carolina (CNN) -- Cab driver Moez Mostafa says it was just another fare when he picked up two college students behind a house last month and drove them to a few locations before dropping them off at a dorm.

But that cab ride could turn out to be a key part of the defense for one of two Duke University students charged with sexually assaulting a dancer hired to perform at a lacrosse team's party.

Defense attorneys for Reade Seligmann, 20, and Collin Finnerty, 19, say they have evidence that should exonerate their clients. (Watch what police sought at Duke dorm -- 2:43)

Both men are charged with first-degree sexual offense, first-degree rape and first-degree kidnapping.

The defense says a timeline and witnesses will show Finnerty was at a restaurant when the incident is alleged to have taken place.

For Seligmann, defense attorneys say, the taxi ride proves his innocence.

A 27-year-old student at North Carolina Central University told police three men raped and beat her March 14 at an off-campus party thrown by Duke lacrosse players.

A document attached to an application for a search warrant in the case said "the victim and her fellow dancer decided to leave because they were concerned for their safety."

The report said "one of the suspects" left the house, apologized and persuaded the women to go back inside.

A neighbor who reportedly saw what was going on said that interaction took place about 12:30 a.m., according to a written statement to police that was provided to CNN by a source with knowledge of the case.

The district attorney has said that the woman was raped afterward.

Mostafa told CNN he got a call at 12:14 a.m. March 14 to pick up two people at 610 North Buchanan Blvd. in Durham. He got there about 12:18 a.m., he said.

Two young men got into his taxi -- one of whom was Seligmann, he said -- and he drove them to a bank branch to get money.

Defense attorneys say an ATM receipt will show he withdrew cash at 12:24 a.m. (Full story)

Mostafa said he next drove the lacrosse player and his companion to a restaurant, then back to a dorm.

During the 35 minutes the two men were in his cab, Mostafa said, he didn't notice anything unusual.

"[They were] joking and laughing, making different conversation," he said. "I did not pay attention. ... [They were] just like talking, like joking, like any kids."

Mostafa said he could tell the two had been drinking, but they didn't appear to him to be drunk.

Mostafa said he first learned about the importance of the cab ride about a week ago, when one of Seligmann's defense attorneys called him, quizzing him about the timing of the night's events.

He said Seligmann and his father visited the cab company Monday.

"His dad did all the talking," Mostafa said, and he wanted to know which cab driver drove his son.

He said that during their meeting, Reade Seligmann listed the times of his phone call to the cab company and recounted the side trips to the bank and restaurant, and the end of the trip at his dorm.

"Everything he said matched what happened, and I told them I am the cab driver," Mostafa said.

Defense lawyers contacted him again and asked him if he would be willing to testify about the cab ride.

"I said 'yes,' " Mostafa said, adding that he had not been contacted by police.

When asked if anyone had tried to pay him for his story or if anyone had offered to pay him, Mostafa said, "No."

"Even if they offer, I won't take it," he said.

Second call

Mostafa said he got another call to pick up people at the North Buchanan address later in the morning of March 14, about 1:07 a.m.

He said he saw about 20 people on the lawn of the house, "yelling, talking back" to each other, including one black woman who he said didn't appear to be injured.

The woman, who seemed to be arguing with the young men, crossed in front of his taxi and got into an "old, white car," Mostafa said. He couldn't see if anyone else was in the car, he said.

"I heard her talking back to the guys" in what was apparently not a friendly conversation, he said.

The woman began to drive away in her car, but suddenly stopped and backed up, almost hitting his taxi, Mostafa said.

Four men got into his cab, and they appeared to be drunk, Mostafa said.

One of them said, "She's just a stripper," Mostafa said.

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