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Message #2074 of 2187  *NEW*
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saundrabeach  
Former Duke Lacrosse Prosecutor on Trial
6/12/07, 3:49pm (Last Edited: 6/16/07, 3:58pm)
graphic

I have trouble feeling sorry for this man. I know he was representing his client, but it wasn't "The Godfather"...


Former Duke Lacrosse Prosecutor on Trial

RALEIGH, N.C. (June 12) -- More than a year after shocking allegations emerged about Duke University's lacrosse team, prosecutor Mike Nifong was back in court Tuesday -- this time, as the defendant

The North Carolina State Bar charged the Durham County district attorney with several violations of the state's rules of professional conduct, all tied to his handling of the lacrosse case.

His trial is expected to run for five days, and as it started Tuesday, the hearing commission chairman promised a quick verdict. If convicted, Nifong could be disbarred.

Well before the start of the hearing, reporters and observers -- including the mothers of David Evans and Collin Finnerty, two of the once-charged and now cleared lacrosse players -- packed the state Court of Appeals courtroom to watch. Finnerty and the third player, Reade Seligmann, were expected to attend the trial at some point, as were their attorneys.

Nifong won indictments against the three last year after a woman hired to perform as a stripper for a lacrosse team party in March 2006 said she was raped there. He aggressively pursued the case, at one point calling the lacrosse team "a bunch of hooligans" in a newspaper interview.

That interview, along with several others made in the case's early days, formed the basis of the bar's initial complaint against Nifong, which said he made misleading and inflammatory comments to the media about the athletes.

The bar later added allegations that Nifong withheld evidence from defense attorneys and that he lied to both to the court and bar investigators.

Worried the pending ethics charges might result in an unfair trial, Nifong asked the North Carolina Attorney General's office to take over the lacrosse prosecution in January. By then, most experts and legal observers had long since concluded the case could not be won.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper agreed in April and dropped all charges against the three players. In a stunning rebuke, Cooper said there was no rape or attack, calling the indicted players "innocent" victims of a rogue prosecutor's "tragic rush to accuse."

Former Duke Lacrosse Prosecutor on TrialJudge Voids Sentence in Teen Sex CaseNifong arrived at court early Tuesday with his wife and teenage son, who took seats in the front row behind the defense table. Nifong is expected to testify.

His attorney, David Freedman, did not return calls seeking comment this week, but last week, he insisted his client had no plans to heed calls from his critics to resign.

"Public opinion is not going to weigh in on how the proceeding develops and will not weigh in on the ultimate decision by the bar," Freedman said. "Our purpose is not to sway public opinion but to present his case to the State Bar."


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Message #2076 of 2187  *NEW*
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saundrabeach  
Re: Former Duke Lacrosse Prosecutor DISBARRED
6/16/07, 4:00pm (Last Edited: 6/16/07, 4:08pm)
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Disciplinary Panel Disbars soon to be former DA, Nifong.

This matter has been a fiasco. There's no doubt about it," said committee chairman F. Lane Williamson.

The North Carolina State Bar charged Nifong with breaking several rules of professional conduct, including lying to both the court and bar investigators and withholding critical DNA test results from the players' defense attorneys.

The committee, after deliberating for a little more than an hour on Saturday, unanimously agreed with the bar on almost every charge - including the most serious allegations - that Nifong's actions involved "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation."

The veteran prosecutor, who had already pledged to resign his position in Durham County, would waive any right to appeal the punishment, said his attorney, David Freedman.

"He hopes this helps restore some of the confidence in the criminal justice system of North Carolina," Freedman said.

"On one hand, it's very devastating," he said. "On the other hand, he's been going through this process for a long time, so you always have some semblance of relief when the process is over with regardless of the outcome."

Nifong sat motionless, one hand resting over his mouth, as Williamson recounted how he engaged in dishonest and deceitful conduct.

State Bar prosecutor Douglas Brocker told the committee that as Nifong investigated the allegations that a stripper was raped and beaten at a March 2006 party thrown by Duke's lacrosse team, he charged "forward toward condemnation and injustice," weaving a "web of deception that has continued up through this hearing."

"Mr. Nifong did not act as a minister of justice, but as a minister of injustice," Brocker said.

The verdicts and the punishment did not appear to surprise Nifong, who acknowledged during sometimes tearful testimony Friday that he would likely be punished for getting "carried away a little bit" when talking about the case.

Disciplinary committee chairman F. Lane Williamson also hinted during Saturday's closing arguments the three-member panel was likely to conclude that Nifong kept from the defense DNA test results that found genetic material from several men in the accuser's underwear and body, but none from any lacrosse player.

"How can you possibly explain that away?" said Williamson, who repeatedly interrupted Nifong's attorney, Dudley Witt, as he discussed the DNA testing during his closing statement.

"It wasn't just one little oversight," Williamson said later. "This was conduct over an extended period in a very high-profile case."

Aware of those test results, Nifong pressed ahead with the case anyway and won indictments against Dave Evans, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty. State prosecutors later concluded the three players were "innocent" victims of a rogue prosecutor's "tragic rush to accuse."

Nifong made "multiple, egregious mistakes" as he pursued the charges, but not intentionally, his attorney said in closing statements.

"It didn't click," Witt said as he tried to explain one of his client's errors. "His mind is just his mind. That's the way it works. It just didn't click."

Brocker said Nifong had to have known he was making improper comments to reporters. Nifong said he regretted some of his statements, including a confident proclamation that he wouldn't allow Durham to become known for "a bunch of lacrosse players from Duke raping a black girl."

He also focused on when Nifong learned about the full extent of the DNA test results and when he shared that information with the defense.

Nifong gave defense attorneys an initial report on the DNA testing in May 2006 that said private lab DNA Security Inc. had been unable to find a conclusive match between the accuser and any lacrosse players.

But lab director Brian Meehan testified this week that he told Nifong as early as April 10, 2006 - a week before Seligmann and Finnerty were indicted - about the more detailed test results.

Nifong testified that when he gave the defense the initial report, he "believed at the time that I had given them everything."

The disciplinary hearing committee had the choice of suspending Nifong's law license or taking it away entirely.

Nifong told the panel hearing the case Friday that he would resign from his post as Durham County district attorney over his handling of the rape charges.

The players' attorneys have pledged to seek criminal contempt charges next week in Durham.


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