"To the extent that I made judgments that ultimately proved to be incorrect, I apologize to the three students that were wrongly accused," Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong said.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Roy Cooper not only dropped all remaining charges against the players Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans, but pronounced them innocent and said they were the victims of Nifong's "tragic rush to accuse." Cooper branded Nifong a "rogue" prosecutor who was guilty of "overreaching."
"I have every confidence that the decision to dismiss all the charges was the correct decision based on that evidence," Nifong said.
In what appeared to be a plea to the athletes not to take any further action, such as a lawsuit, he said: "It is my sincere desire that the actions of Attorney General Cooper will serve to remedy any remaining injury that has resulted from these cases."
Nifong refused to answer any questions after handing the statement to an Associated Press reporter outside his office in Durham.
Seligmann's attorney, Jim Cooney, responded bitterly to the apology.
"You can accept an apology from someone who knows all the facts and simply makes an error," Cooney said. "If a person refuses to know all the facts and then makes a judgment, that's far worse - particularly when that judgment destroys lives."
Nifong stressed that it was his own decision to remove himself from the case that gave Cooper's office the opportunity to review the evidence against the athletes.
"If I did not want to subject ... my own performance to such scrutiny - if, in other words, I had anything to hide - I could have simply dismissed the cases myself," he said. "The fact that I instead chose to seek that review should, in and of itself, call into question the characterizations of this prosecution as â€˜rogue' and â€˜unchecked.'"
Finnerty's father, Kevin Finnerty, said Nifong's "attempt at an apology" was "disingenuous and insincere."
"It falls well short of whatever it might take to even remotely repair the damage he has inflicted on so many people," Finnerty said.
When asked if he accepted the apology, Finnerty said: "I do not. Too little, too late."
Evans' attorney, Joseph Cheshire, accused Nifong of engaging in "revisionist history" with his statement.
"It's not an apology. It's an excuse. It's an attempt at an excuse," Cheshire said. "It's not an acceptance of responsibility. It's a self-serving attempt to excuse bad behavior."
Also Thursday, Cooper said in an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" that will air this weekend that the accuser continued changing her story during his office's review of the case. "We started out knowing we had a problem ... and the way it turned out, it was much worse than we thought," Cooper said in excerpts released by CBS. He also said he was offended by Nifong's conduct.