By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U. S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider whether three Duke University lacrosse players at the center of a rape allegation scandal five years ago should be allowed to pursue federal civil rights claims against police officers over the way they handled the investigation.

The three players, David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, are seeking to hold the City of Durham, North Carolina, accountable for pursuing criminal charges against them based on the testimony of a stripper, Crystal Mangum, whose story was later discredited. The Supreme Court's decision not to intervene does not mean the case is over as the players are pursuing state law claims against both the city and the police officers.

Mangum claimed the players sexually assaulted her at a team party she attended as a hired stripper on March 13, 2006. Then-District Attorney Mike Nifong sought to prosecute them but the case fell apart as players effectively rebutted Mangum's claims.

The players were declared innocent after a review led by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper. Nifong later resigned as district attorney and was prevented from practicing law as a result of his actions in the case.

In a December 2012 ruling, the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the city on the federal claims while allowing some other claims based on state law to proceed.

The case is Evans v. City of Durham, U. S. Supreme Court, No. 12-1363.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller and Vicki Allen)

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