The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities

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Overview

Bestselling author William D. Cohan, whose reporting and writing have been hailed as “gripping” (the New York Times), “authoritative” (the Washington Post), and “seductively engrossing” (Chicago Tribune), presents a stunning new account of the Duke lacrosse team scandal that reveals the pressures faced by America’s elite colleges and universities and pulls back the curtain, in a riveting narrative, on the larger issues of sexual misconduct, underage drinking, and bad-boy ...

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The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities

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Overview

Bestselling author William D. Cohan, whose reporting and writing have been hailed as “gripping” (the New York Times), “authoritative” (the Washington Post), and “seductively engrossing” (Chicago Tribune), presents a stunning new account of the Duke lacrosse team scandal that reveals the pressures faced by America’s elite colleges and universities and pulls back the curtain, in a riveting narrative, on the larger issues of sexual misconduct, underage drinking, and bad-boy behavior—all too prevalent on campuses across the country.

Despite being front-page news nationwide, the true story of the 2006 Duke lacrosse team rape case has never been told in its entirety and is more complex than all the reportage to date would indicate. The Price of Silence is the definitive, magisterial account of what happens when the most combustible forces in American culture— unbridled ambition, intellectual elitism, athletic prowess, aggressive sexual behavior, racial bias, and absolute prosecutorial authority—collide and then explode on a powerful university campus, in the justice system, and in the media.

What transpired at Duke followed upon the university’s unprecedented and determined effort to compete directly with the Ivy League for the best students and with its Division I rivals for supremacy in selected sports—most famously men’s basketball, where Duke has become a perennial powerhouse and the winner of four national championships. As Cohan brilliantly shows, the pursuit of excellence in such diverse realms put extraordinary strains on the campus culture and—warned some longtime Duke observers—warped the university’s academic ethos. Duke became known for its “work hard, play hard” dynamic, and specifically for its wild off-campus parties, where it seemed almost anything could happen—and often did.

Cohan’s reconstruction of the scandal’s events—the night in question, the local police investigation, Duke’s actions, the lacrosse players’ defense tactics, the furious campus politics—is meticulous and complete. Readers who think they know the story are in for more than one surprise, for at the heart of it are individuals whose lives were changed forever. As the scandal developed, different actors fought to control the narrative. At stake were not just the futures of the accused players, the reputation of the woman claiming she was raped, and the career of the local prosecutor, but also the venerable and carefully nurtured name of Duke University itself—the Duke brand, exceedingly valuable when competing for elite students, world-class athletes, talented professors, and the financial support of its nationally prominent, deep-pocketed alumni. The battle for power involved the Duke administration, led by its president, Richard Brodhead, a blazing academic star hired away from Yale; the Duke board of trustees, which included several titans of Wall Street; the faculty, comprising a number of outspoken critics of the lacrosse players; the athletes’ parents, many of whom were well connected in Washington and New York and able—and willing—to hire expensive counsel to defend their sons; and, ultimately, the justice system of North Carolina, which took over the controversial case and rendered its judgment.

The price of resolving the scandal proved extraordinarily high, both in terms of unexpected human suffering and the stratospheric costs of settling legal claims. The Price of Silence is a story unlike any other, yet sheds light on what is really happening on campuses around the country as colleges and universities compete urgently with one another, and confirms William Cohan’s preeminent reputation as one of the most lively and insightful journalists working today.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

In the summer of 2010, Duke University demolished the house in which, four years before, the party resulting in an infamous rape case had taken place, but even that symbolic leveling could not bring a final resolution to the so-called Duke Lacrosse case: Remaining lawsuits involving the accusations were not resolved until last year. William Cohan's The Price of Silence untangles the events, the investigation, the charges, the media coverage, gender and racial issues, the collapse of the case, and the university's defensive responses to the scandal. Our most comprehensive view of a page one headline story.

The New York Times - Susannah Meadows
…surprisingly gripping…Mr. Cohan hasn't unearthed new evidence…But this by no means takes away from the impact of the remarkable story that the book has to tell.
The New York Times Book Review - Caitlin Flanagan
…a masterwork of reporting and a devastating critique of a university that has lost its way…what Cohan has done, to superb effect, is to bring a forensic level of reporting to the event, so that we are forced to throw out its long-accepted narrative and look at it with new eyes. The story we had come to believe existed in two acts. In the first, the three accused players were savages, patently guilty of an act of profound sexual violence; in the second, they were blameless—almost heroic—young men, whose stoic and uncomplaining behavior during the ordeal spoke to their depth of character. The truth turns out to be far more complicated, although their innocence of the crime is incontrovertible. What lies at the heart of Cohan's story are the reasons that so many in the Duke community would have assumed their guilt, and that the university was so willing to abandon them when they got in trouble…Every parent planning to send a child to an "elite" college dominated by an overly powerful athletic program should buy this book. For those with children thinking of Duke, it is required reading.
Publishers Weekly
★ 02/24/2014
Top-notch investigative journalism defines this examination of “one of the most improbable legal sagas in American history,” by journalist Cohan (Money and Power). According to Cohan, the 2006 indictment of three of the university’s lacrosse players on charges of sexual assault “served as a lightning rod... for complex issues of race, sex, violence, privilege and elitism that had been simmering at Duke for decades.” Cohan’s meticulous account utilizes commentary, court records, and interviews to tell a story of “legal hijinks and media histrionics” and their devastating results. With chilling clarity, Cohan traces how public opinion, initially buoyed by negative media reports, first accused the players of maintaining a “wall of silence” and then turned against the alleged victim and the zealous Durham district attorney. Cohan perceptively plumbs the festering tensions of “racism, sexism, misogyny, alcohol culture, paternalism, economic exploitation, athlete impunity” and perceptions of Duke’s “entitlement and privilege.” What emerges is not just an edge-of-your-seat courtroom drama and a cautionary tale, but also an illuminating fable about the power of status, talent, authority, and belief. Throughout, Cohan’s spare prose and objective tone cast his subjects in a humane light, even when their behavior is stunning. This weighty tome will no doubt prove the definitive account of the case. Agent: Joy Harris, Joy Harris Literary Agency. (Apr.)
Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
“Top-notch investigative journalism defines this examination of ‘one of the most improbable legal sagas in American history’. . . meticulous . . . not just an edge-of-your-seat courtroom drama and a cautionary tale, but also an illuminating fable about the power of status, talent, authority, and belief. Throughout, Cohan’s spare prose and objective tone cast his subjects in a humane light, even when their behavior is stunning . . . the definitive account of the case.”
Bryan Burrough
“William Cohan’s fascinating The Price of Silence shows that the Duke lacrosse case was not just a controversial legal investigation that became a heated media circus, but also a conflict that illuminated the fierce pressures on America’s elite universities as they battle for power and prestige and money. Cohan’s deep character study of the principal figures involved also reveals the case as a crucible of fate that created distinct winners and losers."
Jane Mayer
“William Cohan’s scrupulously reported and grippingly written account of this elite campus horror story makes clear that if you thought you knew what happened at Duke, as I did, there is much more to learn. This is a story that ought to disturb anyone who cares about contemporary college life. For the first time, Cohan gets many of the central characters to speak—and what they have to say is eye-opening.”
Booklist
“The relationship between sports and the academic side of college life has long been troubled…Cohan explores the social dynamics that clouded every aspect of the case…Cohan explores the usual disconnects that occur in high-profile crime cases between what is reported in the press, chronicled in official records, and perceived as public opinion and what really happened. A gripping account of a sensational case.”
The Wall Street Journal
“Meticulous…evenhanded…Mr. Cohan captures brilliantly the theater of the absurd that is played out on campuses every year over one controversy or another… Our tour guide in this chamber of horrors, Mr. Cohan, is remarkably dispassionate as he sets forth the fallout from the initial charges: the lacrosse season canceled, three of the team's players indicted, a community in upheaval as a bitter debate over race, sex and class raged, fueled by (often intemperate) media attention.”
The New York Times
“Exhaustive, surprisingly gripping…The Price of Silence proves its worthiness…When the story broke, it had plenty of salacious aspects…but the story turned out to be far more complex, a drama made rich by the characters’ apparent refusal to play their assigned roles…remarkable…Cohan has added a lot of new details to the narrative…extremely impressive…Ultimately, Mr. Cohan’s account is valuable for what the case says about wealth and our legal system.”
Financial Times
“Fascinating...What Cohan’s extraordinary 600-page tome shows is that there is a yawning gap between the lofty rhetoric and grubby reality of American elite universities... It is around the issue of sports that the tangled questions of power, money, racism and culture crystallize particularly clearly…as anthropologists know, every society has power networks and rituals that enable groups to coalesce. But another truism of anthropology is that rituals are most effective in upholding power structures – however distasteful – when nobody talks about them at all, be that on Wall Street or university campuses. In that sense, then, the good news about the 2006 scandal was that it spurred debate about standards.”
Salon
The Price of Silence is the definitive account of what happened up to and after Crystal Gail Mangum made her accusation. Its 600-page length might at first seem more appropriate to a presidential biography or a history of one of the world wars, but The Price of Silence earns its heft, and unlike most biographies and histories, it rarely loosens its grip on its reader’s attention.”
Men’s Journal
“In his new book The Price of Silence, William D. Cohan presents the first authoritative account of what happened on the evening of March 13, 2006 and the chaos that followed. Cohan’s clear-eyed reporting tracks how administrators, lawyers, police, media personalities, Mangum, and the exonerated players reacted to the spotlight and the shadows it cast. In the book, Cohan speaks with a number of important figures who had never before spoken publicly about the scandal, including both Mike Nifong and former Duke University Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Steel.”
STARRED review Booklist
“The relationship between sports and the academic side of college life has long been troubled…Cohan explores the social dynamics that clouded every aspect of the case…Cohan explores the usual disconnects that occur in high-profile crime cases between what is reported in the press, chronicled in official records, and perceived as public opinion and what really happened. A gripping account of a sensational case.”
The New York Times Book Review
“At once a masterwork of reporting and a devastating critique of a university that has lost its way…what Cohan has done, to superb effect, is to bring a forensic level of reporting to the event, so that we are forced to throw out its long-accepted narrative and look at it with new eyes.… Every parent planning to send a child to an “elite” college dominated by an overly powerful athletic program should buy this book. For those with children thinking of Duke, it is required reading.”
Newsday - Karen Long
“[Cohan] is sharp about following the money…[he] receives extra points for fairness.”
Men’s Journal
“In his new book The Price of Silence, William D. Cohan presents the first authoritative account of what happened on the evening of March 13, 2006 and the chaos that followed. Cohan’s clear-eyed reporting tracks how administrators, lawyers, police, media personalities, Mangum, and the exonerated players reacted to the spotlight and the shadows it cast. In the book, Cohan speaks with a number of important figures who had never before spoken publicly about the scandal, including both Mike Nifong and former Duke University Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Steel.”
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-02-26
Vanity Fair contributing editor and Duke University alumnus Cohan (Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World, 2011) turns a microscopic lens on the 2006 scandal involving an alleged rape by members of the school's lacrosse team. The case of a group of white athletes at an elite Southern university accused of raping an African-American stripper exploded into national headlines in the spring of 2006 and continued to play out in the media over the following year. A confluence of perennial hot-button issues related to race, class, money, athletics, politics and power made the Duke lacrosse scandal perfect fodder for the traditional media and its growing online counterpart. Initial condemnation of the accused, whose team's arrogant and often drunken behavior in the preceding years had drawn the ire of locals, professors and fellow students, eventually gave way to rising questions about the handling of the case by the Duke administration, the media and, most crucially, by the police and prosecution, led by Durham, N.C., District Attorney Mike Nifong. Cohan seemingly leaves no stone unturned in covering all aspects of the case: the criminal proceedings, the media coverage and its impact, and the issues raised in the community and at Duke and other similar schools. The author mostly refrains from editorializing, letting the voluminous evidence and historical record speak for itself, carried along by the story's undeniably gripping drama. That he does have an opinion on the matter comes through, however, particularly in his descriptions of those involved. Nifong, whose epic mishandling of the case cost him his career and impacted the lives of all participants, remains unwilling, or unable, to comprehend his failures. Cohan's book will hopefully help others avoid them. A comprehensive, illuminating and highly readable study of a notorious episode in the annals of the American justice system.
Men's Journal
“The first authoritative account... Cohan’s clear-eyed reporting tracks how administrators, lawyers, police, media personalities, Mangum, and the exonerated players reacted to the spotlight and the shadows it cast.”
Business Magazine
"The Duke case deserves a thorough account, and Cohan doesn't disappoint."
Library Journal
★ 04/01/2014
Acclaimed investigative journalist Cohan (Money and Power; House of Cards) turns from his previous focus on Wall Street to the 2006 Duke Lacrosse Scandal, when an event within the alcohol-fueled campus party culture led to charges of rape and a lengthy legal process. Cohan tells the complex story, drawing on public records and interviews, to portray the sports players and the three indicted students, the police investigators, the expert defense team, the academic leadership, and the district attorney who generated a media storm over the case until it was dismissed and he was disbarred. With both detail and clarity, the author engages the reader in the paradox of the emergence of Duke as a nationally ranked university where scholastic excellence vied against a "party hard" social scene. The book articulates the initial response that the case pitted "rich, arrogant, white" athletes against "poor, oppressed, blacks" and the nationwide concern that the accusations of sexual assault reflected unease about "decades of perceived racial, social and economic injustice in America." VERDICT This excellent presentation of media-generated hysteria over a criminal investigation offers insights into police work, prosecutorial excess, and an extensive and expensive legal defense, set in a North Carolina city where the wealthy university was neighbor to an economically stressed black community and seemed to echo national tensions.—Elizabeth Hayford, formerly with Associated Coll. of the Midwest, Evanston, IL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451681796
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 4/8/2014
  • Pages: 672
  • Sales rank: 48,735
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 2.10 (d)

Meet the Author

William D. Cohan is the bestselling author of Money and Power, House of Cards, and The Last Tycoons. He has appeared on The Daily Show, Charlie Rose, CBS This Morning, ABC Evening News, Good Morning America, and more. He has also been featured on numerous NPR programs, including Marketplace, Diane Rehm, Leonard Lopate, and Studio 360 with Kurt Anderson. In addition to being media savvy, Cohan is himself a Duke alum who worked on Wall Street for seventeen years.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 1.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 9 of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2014

    Am I really the first to review?  Is no one reading this book an

    Am I really the first to review?  Is no one reading this book and then retching horribly from exaggeration and self promotion?  Cohan CLAIMS to be the first at so many things, and he isn't. He wasn't the foist to see the medical records, he wasn't the first to talk to the false accuser, and he wasn't the first to be fooled by Nifong, a convicted liar and corrupt DA. Cohan fabricates quotes from people, putting his own words in their  mouths.  How many different times do we have to hear that, as he likes to say, something happened that no one would be proud of? This book has NO REFERENCES, no FOOTNOTES, no ENDNOTES, and NO REASON TO BE BELIEVED. He cannot defend any of his original observations because he doesn't make any!  He claims to be dispassionate, when he what he really was, well, was lazy.  This is the book equivalent of the HUFFINGTON POST, a mere assembly of other people's hard work. He didn't analyze anything Mike Nifong said, or check it out with other sources, because that would have taken work.  He just transcribes the Nifongian delusions and presents them as fact. Something happened in the making of this book, something none of us can be proud of! 

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2014

    The book adds noting new about the sad tragedy of the injustice

    The book adds noting new about the sad tragedy of the injustice that took place back in 2006.  A bland 600 page rehash supposedly mimiciking a real trial according to the author.  Unfortunately for this author, he left out the defense and only repeated what has been previously published with his opinion, not facts added for suspense.  What a disappointment from a relatively successful author.  He lost onthisbook.  I attended a local bookshop appearance of this author to discuss the book.  He made excuse after excuse as to why he couldnot talk to anyone other then Mike Nifong and Crystal Mangum.  He claims for mer BOT chairman Robert Steel told him things that Mr steel himsef has denied in writing to another author on the Duke hoax, KC Johnson.  Well, without continuing the pain mush further, this over 600 page book isnot worth the read the author was hoping.  It is all bias, opinion and lalcks any references as proof that what Mr Cohan is stating in the book  is accurate.  

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2014

    If I could, I would rate this with 0 stars because it is so lack

    If I could, I would rate this with 0 stars because it is so lacking in journalistic integrity it is shocking. Furthermore, why publish such
    a poorly researched tome, 7 years after the event happened. While Mr. Cohan was having his conversations with 
    a disbarred DA and a woman in jail for murder, the Duke Men's lacrosse team has been winning championships, 
     three, in the past five years and eight successive final four trips. Perhaps Mr. Cohan could write a more interesting
     book on how they achieved such an amazing accomplishment. Don't read book, it is a complete waste of time.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2014

    Any writer who would question a person's DNA being found on an o

    Any writer who would question a person's DNA being found on an object in his own trash can cannot have credibility
    with me.  So much was left out of the book but more than that Cohan gives credence to two liars - a well known
    crooked prosecutor who wanted to railroad innocent players and a former stripper who knifed and killed a man.
    One has to wonder if the writer has a vendetta against the wealthy and wants to keep people stirred up with race
    and class warfare.   To Mr. Cohan, for your information, you look foolish as the majority of Americans know the players were innocent.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 8, 2014

    Poorly written revisionist history. Not well-researched (Cohan d

    Poorly written revisionist history. Not well-researched (Cohan didn't even talk to many of the major participants in this case) and biased. Cohan is still claiming that "something happened in that bathroom" even though DNA evidence pretty much proves it didn.t

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2014

    Read this

    This book is okay for like adults if you kids want books with action and game time look up Duke college and click Duke vs. Kenrucky. For adults only.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2014

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    Posted May 24, 2014

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