Local News

Cheek Won't Pursue Durham DA Job

Posted July 27, 2006

— County Commissioner Lewis Cheek said Thursday morning that he won't run for the post of Durham County District Attorney.

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    Cheek said in a news conference at the Durham County Board of Elections that he was concerned his status as district attorney would harm his private law practice, which he started three years ago.

    "(I had said) I would not leave and will not leave my law firm to be DA and put it in potential jeopardy," Cheek said.

    Cheek said that he would not comment or actively campaign in the race.

    "I'm not going to have further connection with the campaign, the election... with anything," Cheek said.

    When asked whether he thought he had wasted the voters' time, he responded, "I don't think so. I hope they don't."

    Julia Linehan, Nifong's campaign manager, calls the whole thing bizarre, but still she admits Cheek's short stint is a concern.

    "I'd be lying if I said it wasn't, but how major a concern? I don't know yet," she said.

    More than 6,400 people signed a petition to get Cheek's name on the ballot. Even though Cheek decided not to seek the post, his name will still be on the November ballot.

    Cheek has been critical of District Attorney Mike Nifong's handling of a case in which

    three Duke University lacrosse players

    are accused of raping a woman at a team party in March.

    The three players maintain they are innocent of charges that have been filed against them.

    "I saw what appeared to be a media war between Nifong and the defense lawyers," Cheek said Thursday. "I suffered with everyone else as Durham seemed to get skewered... It seemed to me that if what was occurring reflected Nifong's general philosophy for handling cases in the DA's office ... then there was some reason for concern."

    In May, Nifong beat two challengers for the Democratic spot on the ballot -- former Assistant District Attorney Freda Black and Durham lawyer Keith Bishop. Nifong won by 883 votes.

    If Cheek were to still be elected, the district attorney position would then be vacant. The governor would then have to appoint a new district attorney.

    Cheek said that his initial decision to pursue getting on the ballot was not a personal attack against Nifong.

    "Anyone who says I smeared Mike Nifong needs to show me how I smeared him and when I smeared him," Cheek said. "I have not said anything negative about Mike Nifong... It is not personal. It has to do about philosophies about how things get handled."

    Cheek said he plans to vote in November and he plans to vote for himself. Nifong will hold a press conference Friday morning to discuss the upcoming election.

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