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State Bar Files Ethics Complaint Against Mike Nifong

Posted December 28, 2006
Updated December 29, 2006

— The North Carolina State Bar has filed an ethics complaint against Duke lacrosse prosecutor Mike Nifong.

The 17-page complaint accuses him of breaking four rules of professional conduct when speaking to reporters about the high-profile case. The complaint lists more than 100 examples of public statements Nifong made to the media, including WRAL, since March.

Among the rules, the bar complaint says Nifong violated is a prohibition on making "comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused."

Another of the rules Nifong was charged with breaking forbids "dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation." The bar said that when DNA testing failed to find any evidence that any 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.

Nifong has come under mounting scrutiny for the way he has handled the investigation, in which a 28-year-old exotic dancer initially claimed she was raped at an off-campus lacrosse party in March.

Three lacrosse players—David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann—were later indicted on charges of first-degree rape, first-degree sexual offense and first-degree kidnapping.

In a statement, the bar said it opened a case against Nifong on March 30, a little more than two weeks after the party, and it found on Oct. 19 after an investigation that there was reasonable cause to refer the case to the bar's Disciplinary Commission for trial.

A series of public hearings will be held before the Disciplinary Commission that eventually will lead to the public trial sometime next year. If it's determined that Nifong violated any ethical code of conduct, the penalties could range from a reprimand to disbarment.

Nifong had no comment when WRAL contacted him at his home Thursday evening. No defense attorneys were immediately available for comment.

Duke University did release a statement Thursday evening reiterating President Richard Brodhead's call last week that Nifong turn the case over to an independent investigator.

The statement read: "This afternoon’s announcement from the North Carolina State Bar makes all the more appropriate, as President Brodhead said last week, that 'The district attorney should now put this case in the hands of an independent party, who can restore confidence in the fairness of the process.'"

Last Friday, Nifong dropped the rape charges against the three athletes after the accuser, a North Carolina Central University student, told Nifong's investigator that she couldn't testify "with certainty" that she was raped, according to dismissal motions.

All three former lacrosse players still face the two other remaining charges.

Case Might Be Stronger, Law Professor Says

Some experts have said that Nifong's dismissal of the rape charges could actually make the prosecution's case stronger.

"Now, they don't have to establish that there was penetration committed against the accuser," said N.C. Central University law professor Irving Joyner.

"In addition to that, now they don't have to deal with the DNA or the lack of DNA evidence," Joyner added. "And with the rape shield statute, it's unlikely that information will even come before the jury to consider."

Family members of the players and other attorneys not connected to the case have said the remaining charges should be dropped because Nifong's action shows he does not have enough evidence to proceed.

"What he's tried to do is take out the charge that he couldn't prove," said Duke University law professor James Coleman. "I think he's become increasingly desperate to try to turn this into a case."
33 Comments

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  • BM3DEAKH Apr 17, 9:44 p.m.

    I AM WITH YA'LL ON THE JESSE JACKSON,I THINK HE NEEDS A BIG PLATE OF AND THEN HAVE TO SAY HE IS SORRY FOR THE FALSE ACCUSATIONS HE BROUGHT AGAINST THESE GUYS.AND THE PANTHERS TOO.THEY TAR AND FEATHERED THEM BOYS BEFORE THE INK WAS DRY ON THE AREST WARRANTS.WE NEED A WHITE SPOKES PERSON TO GET ON THE TV AND CRY OUT FOR OUR RIGHTS THAT HAVE BEEN VIOLATED.THE PARENTS HAVE BEEN ADULT'S THROUGH ALL THIS WHILE THE "OTHERS" HAVE TALKED AND MADE FOOLS OF THEMSELVES,MAYBE JESSE WILL LET THEM SET DOWN WITH HIM WHEN HE EATS HIS

  • clanlaird Apr 16, 5:53 p.m.

    Mike Nipong should be hung by the thumbs for 395 days for his handling of the 3 Players of the Duke Lacrosse team. I can relate to this corrupt man because I have a daughter that was also falsely accused by a Boulder, CO district attorney!

  • cameo Apr 12, 7:40 a.m.

    Doesn't the faculty of Duke who composed a letter of condemnation of the three accused need to show some change of mind? Nifong definitely prejudiced them through his public statements to the media. This is a gross violation and any casual observer would have to say this guy did not go to law school.

  • elektek Mar 18, 7:20 p.m.

    I have yet to see Duke University AND the liberal profs taken to task for their rush to condemn the players. I hope the parents sue the crap out of the university AND the professors individually. They most assuredly did NOT grant the players the right to the presumption of innocence. I hope the "justice" (LOL)system hangs Nifong up by his buster browns and that he and the women that brought these charges are sent to prison for a period of no less than ten years - NO PAROLE!!!The universities have become an open sewer of liberalism and I for one am sick of it!Lastly the "New"(LOL) Black Panthers are nothing more than the Klan with a tan!

  • WXYZ Jan 19, 9:43 a.m.

    Nifong had better pray that his cronies will bail him out of this one. Over 100 violations in 4 categories! This man should permanenetly lose his law license, lose his job and be charged with civil and criminal vilations.

  • Get a clue Dec 29, 7:17 p.m.

    I'm still waiting for the protests from the "churches", BP and Rev? Jackson demanding to charge the stripper for filing a false police report in the first place.

  • pleszewicz Dec 29, 4:33 p.m.

    so i guess Jesse Jackson will pay for the white boys' college educations now, ....right?

    I mean, the accuser turned out to be lying. So...they're innocent, I guess. Just write up Jesse as another public figure that addresses the camera with his fingers crossed.

  • terry10k Dec 29, 3:48 p.m.

    thank you anitatucker...i hope the three innocent players will band together when NiFong finally realizes there is nothing to prove, and sue him and the stripper all the way to the black panthers headquarters...wtg NiFong--you only helped fuel the fire that there is no justice when blacks scream bloody murder against whites...i wonder just how you would have handled the case NiFong, if the stripper was white...sighhhh, incredible...

  • kjjohnso Dec 29, 3:37 p.m.

    The Black Panthers and Jesse Jackson are the true racist. After all didn't Jesse promise to pay for her college even if the allegations came out to be false ? And please don't hand me the poor black story , you don't reward liars regardless of color !!

  • lovinlife2010 Dec 29, 1:54 p.m.

    AMEN to anitatucker01 !!! Where ARE the black panthers, Jesse Jackson, and all the CHURCHES that protested on the site?? HELLO???? HELLO??? Where are they now that all THIS has come out?? No where to be found?!?!? I guess if i had made a fool of myself in public i would hide in a hole for awhile too!!

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