Is Jets safety Abram Elam a stand-up guy trying to repair his rep, or a rape accomplice that got off easy? The New York Daily News’ Rich Cimini is, as Mark McGwire might say, here to talk about the past.

In April 2002, a Notre Dame junior named Lindsay Charles accused three football players of raping her at an off-campus house. A fourth, Elam (above), wasn’t charged with rape, but was in the bedroom. Elam fondled her and wound up being convicted of sexual battery, a felony. The others walked away, no convictions.Charles walked away a psychological mess, friends say, so afraid of retribution in the football-obsessed Notre Dame community that she legally changed her last name while finishing her undergraduate work. (She has since returned to her real name.) Years later, when Elam resurfaced, so did she, waging a smear campaign against him wherever he showed up on the football map.
“I feel sick to my stomach whenever I think about Abram Elam,” Charles writes in an E-mail to the Daily News. “I am disappointed that an NFL team would sign a convicted sex offender, when there must be other talented men who have not committed heinous crimes. He belongs in a jail cell, not on the gridiron.”

Elam is “a paper tiger,” says Kathy Redmond, founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes. She acknowledges that Elam “inflicted the least amount of damage” of the four, but she says his most egregious crime was not trying to stop the alleged rape and refusing to testify against the others.

“He could’ve made a difference if he had shown some courage, telling the whole story the way it really happened without having to feel like he ratted out his boys,” says Redmond, who has worked closely with Charles since the incident. With a hint of hopefulness in her voice, she adds, “There’s no statute of limitations on him doing the right thing.”

“There is no just punishment for rape,” Charles writes, “but certainly his sentence and its consequences do not even come close to being fair.”

“I apologized for putting myself in that situation,” he says. “I learned to live and learned from my mistakes, and allowed people to get to know me and the person I am. Once they give me a chance, they’ll see that I’m a good guy.”

Those close to Elam believe he got a raw deal, questioning why the defendant facing lesser charges was convicted while the alleged rapists walked free. Elam rejected a plea arrangement that would’ve resulted in all charges against him being dropped if he testified that the three others committed rape.

“He was steadfast in saying he was in no way guilty, and that he wasn’t going to make up stories about the other three,” Elam’s South Bend-based attorney, Mark Lenyo, says now.

Lenyo believes there were inconsistencies in Charles’ case that raised questions about her credibility, noting she spent the night at the house, slept in the same bed as Smith and removed a tampon before the incident.

Redmond’s response: “This was four guys. This was blood on the sheets. This was many different orifices being raped. She went through a brutal, brutal attack.”

Ignored in the 2005 draf, Elam tried to catch on as a free agent, but continued to run into a persistent obstacle – Charles.

She made it her business to sabotage his fledgling career, calling ahead to prospective teams and the local papers to tell the story of how Elam ruined her life. The Dolphins gave him a look, but they cut him soon after the papers picked up on her story.

“I think she enjoys a lot of attention,” Lenyo says.