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Old 12-28-2006, 10:29 PM   #1
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Duke Prosecutor Nifong Brought Up On Ethics Charges

Nifong accused of breaking four rules of conduct
Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Nine months after the Duke lacrosse scandal broke, the prosecutor has become the accused.

The North Carolina bar filed ethics charges Thursday against District Attorney Mike Nifong, accusing him of saying misleading and inflammatory things to the media about the athletes under suspicion when the case unfolded last spring.

The punishment for ethics violations can range from admonishment to disbarment. The complaint could also force Nifong off the case by creating a conflict of interest.

"He's got this hanging over his head," said Thomas Metzloff, a Duke law professor and member of the bar's ethics committee for the past 10 years. "It relates so much to his underlying conduct in the case."

Among the four rules of professional conduct that Nifong was accused of violating was a prohibition against making comments "that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused."

In a statement, the bar said it opened a case against Nifong on March 30, a little more than two weeks after a 28-year-old woman hired to perform as a dancer at a lacrosse team party said she was gang-raped.

The ethics allegations come as legal experts on both sides of the criminal bar have warned that the case against the three athletes is pitifully weak.

The ethics charges will be heard by an independent body called the Disciplinary Hearing Commission, made up of both lawyers and non-lawyers. A date for the hearing has not been set.

Nifong did not return several calls and e-mails seeking comment. But in an October interview with The Associated Press, he said his only regret in handling the case was speaking so often to the media early in the investigation.

"Certainly what I was trying to do was to reassure the community, to encourage people with information to come forward," Nifong said. "And that was clearly not the effect."

The bar cited 41 quotations and eight paraphrased statements made to newspaper and TV reporters, saying many of them amounted to "improper commentary about the character, credibility and reputation of the accused" or their alleged unwillingness to cooperate. Most of the comments were in March and April.


Among them:

• Nifong referred to the accused men as "a bunch of hooligans."

• He declared: "I am convinced there was a rape, yes, sir."

• He told ESPN: "One would wonder why one needs an attorney if one was not charged and had not done anything wrong."

• He told The New York Times: "I'm disappointed that no one has been enough of a man to come forward. And if they would have spoken up at the time, this may never have happened."

Nifong also was charged with breaking a rule against "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation." The bar said that when DNA testing failed to find any evidence a lacrosse player raped the accuser, Nifong told a reporter the players might have used a condom.

According to the bar, Nifong knew that assertion was misleading, because he had received a report from an emergency room nurse in which the accuser said her attackers did not use a condom.

Defense attorney Joseph Cheshire, who represents one of the three athletes, declined to comment Thursday.

Last week, Nifong dropped the rape charges against the athletes after the accuser wavered in her story, saying she was no longer certain she was penetrated vaginally with a penis, as she had claimed several times before. The men still face charges of kidnapping and sexual offense.

In recent months -- and especially after last week -- legal experts and even Nifong's own colleagues have warned openly that the case appears weak.

"One wonders what the effect of this will be," Stan Goldman, who teaches criminal law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said after the ethics charges were filed. "Is this going to result in him treating the case more gingerly and deciding it's not worth pursuing, or is he going to get his back up and decide he's got to pursue this case to the end regardless?"

The athletes, Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans, have maintained their innocence and called the charges "fantastic lies." The case is not expected to go to trial until at least the spring.

The weaknesses in the case include the lack of DNA evidence; the accuser's ever-shifting story; one player's claim to have an alibi supported by receipts and time-stamped photos; and the defense's insistence that the photo lineup that was used to identify the defendants violated police procedures and was skewed against the men.

Before the ethics charges were filed, Bob Brown, an attorney in private practice who once worked with Nifong in the prosecutor's office, predicted the case would be a "bloodbath" for the prosecution if it went to trial.

Among other questions raised in recent weeks: Why did it take months for anyone from Nifong's office to interview the accuser? And why did Nifong initially withhold from the defense DNA test results that found genetic material from several men -- none of them Duke lacrosse players -- on the accuser's underwear and body?

"I don't see how any member of the public can have confidence in this case. I think it's making a mockery of our criminal justice system to permit this guy to keep fumbling along," Duke University law professor James Coleman, one of Nifong's leading critics, said before the ethics charges were filed. "It's either total incompetence or it's misconduct on a scale that is extraordinary."
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Old 12-28-2006, 10:36 PM   #2
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where's the outrage? where are the protests in the street? where are the people jumping up and down about the rights of these three boys, who have been railroaded from the very start?

when the story first broke, everyone in the world was quick to jump all over these three young men, the entire duke program, and the entire culture of athletics.

now admittedly there were issues with the duke program, and there are obviously issues that need to be dealt with in athletics as a whole... but where, now that's it's as clear as night and day, are the people who ripped these young men as disgraces to society now? where are the marches in the street demanding justice for them? where?



assumptions are a dangerous thing
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Old 12-29-2006, 05:23 AM   #3
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right on. Their lives are ruined, and for what? The DA's 15 minutes of fame? So he can get re-elected?
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Old 12-29-2006, 05:54 AM   #4
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wow, that's a whole change of attitude from you from the michael jackson threads, headache. but that is jumping across forums. just stands out, is my point.

assumptions without solid proof are dangerous indeed.

so, these fellows are completely cleared now, or is the case still pending?
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Old 12-29-2006, 10:43 AM   #5
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wow, that's a whole change of attitude from you from the michael jackson threads, headache. but that is jumping across forums. just stands out, is my point.

assumptions without solid proof are dangerous indeed.

so, these fellows are completely cleared now, or is the case still pending?
i suppose you have a point... although one could argue there is tons of evidence to support that michael jackson is a pedophile, where as there's tons of evidence to support that these kids did nothing.

but, alas, one was a sarcastic attempt at humor in the music section, the other is in a more serious part of the forum.
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Old 12-29-2006, 06:32 PM   #6
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What a hatchet job this whole thing was. The DA is a joke.
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Old 12-29-2006, 08:54 PM   #7
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Nice to see everyone piling on the DA. Imagine the outcry had he not decided to take this to trial.
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Old 12-29-2006, 10:46 PM   #8
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Nice to see everyone piling on the DA. Imagine the outcry had he not decided to take this to trial.
Yeah. I mean, why should little to no evidence to back his claims stop the DA from taking this thing to court?
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Old 12-30-2006, 12:09 AM   #9
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This case has been an embarrassment to the city of Durham and the entire state of NC since it started.

I'm sure several, if not all, of the Duke lacrosse team get special treatment in many phases of their lives - just like thousands of other athletes at hundreds of other schools. It's a accepted dirty little secret until a story like this breaks, then people want to be outraged at the privelege these 'hooligans' are allowed. So the lacrosse team had a party & hired a couple of strippers - yeah, that's shocking 'cause the rest of American collegians are as mild as an Amish quilting bee.

As for the young woman in question - regardless of social standing, race, or career choice, no one has the right to attack and humiliate her. However, that being said, does no one find it compellingly coincidental that she accused these three guys nine months ago and while no DNA evidence linking their private parts to her private parts can be found, she delivered a full term baby sometime late last month/early this month? I hate as a woman to think that there may be an attempt on her part to cover up some kind of personal misconduct, but it seems to me that this case gets weaker and weaker once all the screaming about racial injustice and prejudicial treatment settles down and the hard facts are examined.

I don't know - maybe my ignorance of what she's experienced leads me to make stereotypical assumptions. But I think these charges have been a crock from the beginning.
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Old 01-03-2007, 03:20 PM   #10
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Duke's inviting back two of the three accused students (the other one graduated).

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/200...x.html?cnn=yes
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Old 01-04-2007, 08:49 AM   #11
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finnerty's been taking classes at hofstra. worst kept secret around these parts of late.
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