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Lax Case Documentary, Duke Controversy Have Good Timing

Well we didn't see this coming.

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On Sunday, ESPN will air a 30 For 30 looking back on the Duke lacrosse case. So far it's getting rave reviews.

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We probably don't need to recap at this point, so suffice it to say that the state of North Carolina eventually declared the whole thing to be essentially a fraud. Prosecutor Mike Nifong was disbarred and briefly jailed.

Of course that fraud took a lot of people along for the ride, including a number of willing members of the faculty and several members of the administration, including Duke Vice President Tallman Trask.

We don't have time to look up Dr. Trask's role in the lacrosse mess, but we do remember him being criticized rather vigorously at times and our recollection is that if he didn't actively participate in smearing those guys, he certainly didn't stand on top of Duke Chapel and yell out "this is wrong!"

A tide of political correctness threatened to sweep three innocent men to jail.

Now, in an interesting turn, another tide is threatening Dr. Trask.

On August 30, 2014, Trask allegedly hit Shelvia Underwood with his car in a Duke parking lot. This was before the Duke-Elon football game and Ms. Underwood was working with McLaurin Parking to help manage traffic.

She claims that he called her a "stupid n*****" as he drove away.

Some weeks later, after she filed a report, he sent her a written apology .

When asked by the Duke Chronicle, Dr. Trask denied that he had hit her until he was shown the note. He then 'fessed up to that but continued to deny using the n-word. Here's the relative passage from the Chronicle's article:

"After the game had already started, Underwood said Trask approached in his silver Porsche while she was speaking with a pedestrian. Underwood said that in order to help the pedestrian, she stopped Trask. She added that she did not realize who Trask was because she was a contract employee.

"As Underwood started to turn around to address Trask, he hit her with his car, she said.

"'As I turn back around, I take a step and this car has hit me. My hands are on the hood, then I hit the ground,' Underwood said.

"Underwood got off the ground, then said she shouted at Trask, 'Really sir, really? You’re in that much of a hurry that you hit me with your car?'

"Underwood said she told Trask that the road was closed unless he had a parking pass. Rather than initially showing Underwood a pass, Trask responded by banging on the steering wheel and saying, 'This road is not closed' twice, Underwood said. Underwood explained that Trask then held up two parking passes—which she said was 'all he needed in the first place' to be allowed to go through.

"As Trask drove off, Underwood said he called her a 'dumb, dumb stupid n*****.'

"Huggins, Underwood’s lawyer, declined to comment."

We don't know what happened here, but we do know that some elements of Underwood's story have been corroborated by witnesses. We do know that Trask was not entirely honest with the Chronicle.

Now things have ratcheted up a notch: several student groups organized a protest on campus Tuesday.

We weren't there and we have no idea if he actually said what he's accused of saying. At best the circumstances seem murky. His wife, who was in the car, supports him;  a family friend of  Underwood supports her account.

But we do find it interesting that Dr. Trask is now confronted with a smaller version of what the lacrosse players faced. And we're not talking about what he did or didn't say to the woman, who was understandably offended by his behavior, leaving aside the alleged slur. Even President Brodhead criticized his behavior on that day.

We mean that he may, in some smaller way, be about to gain a deeper understanding of the sense of injustice that was shared by Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans during their ordeal.

As was the case then, we hope everyone will seek the truth, but that is asking a lot these days.

We doubt the irony of the situation is lost on Dr. Trask.