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Nifong: Grassroots Groups Trying to Run Him out of Office

Posted March 2, 2007

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— In a letter to the North Carolina State Bar, the embattled former prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse case complains about how grassroots groups are trying to run him out of office.

The Dec. 28 letter is an attachment to Mike Nifong's written response filed Wednesday to an ethics complaint filed by the North Carolina State Bar.

In it, Nifong cites one group, Friends of Duke University -- a group of alumni, parents and supporters of the school -- that takes aim at how he handled the case and has also provided instructions on a blog about how to petition for the DA's removal.

"A well-connected and well-financed (but not, I would suggest, a well-intentioned) group of individuals … have taken it upon themselves to ensure that this case never reaches trial," Nifong writes in the eight-page letter to the State Bar's Grievance Committee.

The letter was dated the same day the Bar initially filed an ethics complaint against Nifong for allegedly breaking rules of professional conduct in the case against the three Duke lacrosse athletes accused of sexually assaulting an exotic dancer last March.

Nifong continues in the letter: "If this seems like paranoid delusion to you, perhaps you should check out Web sites... such as (Friends of Duke University)."

But the founding member of the group, University of Maryland law professor and Duke graduate Jason Trumpbour, offers no apologies.

"I think Mike Nifong has to realize he is the author of his own misfortune," Trumpbour said.

"Given his conduct, he doesn't deserve to be in office," he added. "I got involved in this case, because early on, it became clear to me that these defendants were not getting a fair trial."

WRAL was unable to reach Nifong for comment on Friday.

In its initial complaint, the State Bar cited more than 100 examples of public statements Nifong made to the media, including WRAL, since the case broke in March. In part, the Bar said those comments "have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused."

In January, the Bar amended the complaint, adding that Nifong allegedly withheld DNA evidence from defense attorneys -- exculpatory evidence that could negate a defendant's guilt.

In his written response this week, Nifong said he did not intentionally violate ethics rules and denied that he intentionally withheld evidence.

A series of public hearings will be held before the State Bar's Disciplinary Commission and will eventually lead to a public trial, possibly in June. If the Bar finds Nifong guilty, he could be disbarred.

Amid mounting scrutiny of his handling of the sexual assault case, Nifong recused himself from it in January and asked the North Carolina Attorney General's Office to appoint a special prosecutor.

The criminal trial for the defendants -- Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans -- was expected to go to trial this spring but has been delayed as new prosecutors review evidence in the case.

Seligmann, Finnerty and Evans were indicted last year on charges of first-degree rape, sexual assault and kidnapping, but Nifong dropped the rape charges in December because the accuser said she could not testify with certainty that she was raped.

All three suspects still face the two other charges. Throughout the investigation, they have maintained their innocence in the case

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  • thelmasgirl Mar 6, 2007

    If anybody wanted to clean up the Da's office in Durham they would have to start at the top of the couthouse and work down all it is is a good old boy club and if you don't have the money to pay you get screwed, railroaded or worse I think some of the Defense attorneys work for the Da's office instead of representing their clients to the best of their ability they cooerse them into accepting deals that are not in their best interest If the Duke men had not of had parents with the money to fight they would probably be on death row if Durham and it's bunch of crooks had their way. I used to have respect for the court but after several weeks spent going up there I can tell you I hold nothing but contempt for the4 court in Durham there is no justice

  • Gnathostomata Mar 4, 2007

    What Mark Said!

    Three college kids did not parade around in front of the media and use it to promote self. They could have ranted a little at the DA's public trial and lapse of good judgment at not being honest with the evidence. They were more mature in representing NC in the media than Nifong. Unfortunate that they behaved like immature kids and got into this mess, but hopefully they will grow through it and be responsible adults that do not misrepresent truth to promote self...It all is too sad, really, for everyone. But as for Nifong accusing a group of trying to remove him as if there is no reason to remove him, it's sadder.

  • Mark Eichman Mar 4, 2007

    Dear CBSConsult,

    I believe there are fundamental differences between what Nifong did and what you're accusing us of doing.

    Nifong leapt to judgment for what appears to be political self-interest. While some here may be critical of Nifong for partisan reasons, many (perhaps most) are simply disgusted with his behavior which even you must agree was over the top.

    Many of his actions since the case broke, particularly the harsh language he used to characterize the suspects, were public. We all saw his press conferences, self-indulgent posturing and speechifying. In context with what we now know to be the paucity of evidence he had, we can justifiably conclude that his actions were premature at best and highly unethical. We can reach these conclusions based on the evidence WE HAVE.

    Lastly, his office is governed by a specific code of ethics that he explicitly agrees to uphold. We as the public enjoy a broader freedom to comment. So we are NOT doing what Nifong did.

  • cbsconsult Mar 4, 2007

    That's right - pick and choose to whom criticism should be directed. I do find your comment about "allegations" by the State Bar to be interesting. You agree with the State Bar's allegations therefore they must be true. You disagree with the DA's allegations and therefore they are false. Please clarify something for me ~ when was it that the "three college kids conducted themselves in a most mature manner..."?

    We could debate this sorry affair for the next 20 years without a satisfactory resolution. We all know that one cannot do anything about spilled milk ~ except clean it.

  • Gnathostomata Mar 4, 2007

    cbsconsult: a. the report says,"...the State Bar cited more than 100 examples of public statements Nifong made to the media..." and later amended to state "Nifong allegedly withheld DNA evidence..." Do you think the State Bar would make allegations against someone without merit???

    b. With your train of thought, let's take it back a notch and rebuke the stripper for attending a "party" with 18 to 21 year old college kids and subject them to ludeness...let's condemn all of them for stupidity, but the allegations against the college kids had little substancial evidence, facts were withheld, and the DA of all people should have known better. He isn't 20 years old, and he shouldn't act like it. It seems to me that the three college kids conducted themselves in a most mature manner, which is more than can be said for any of the other adults involved.

  • Thornedwolf Mar 4, 2007

    The Truth is out there Ms. Nifong........oh yeah I forgot your not concerned with the Truth....NEVER MIND :)!

  • cbsconsult Mar 4, 2007

    Ok ~ so there is no "e" in judgment. The fact remains that you folks are all too willing to do the exact things for which you condemn Nifong. Unfortunately, public officials are easy targets (whether warranted or unwarranted). Nearly every day, someone is falsely accused of a crime. We all wish that everyone would be honest 100% of the time. The question remains, why would these "upstanding young men" need a "stripper" at a house party? Whether they are innocent or guilty, allow the judicial system to work. The State Bar will try Nifong on ethics charges ~ allow the system to work.

  • talkinturkey Mar 4, 2007

    Poor judgment (the word has no "e" in it) on the part of one person or group of people is not an excuse on the part of another to commit a crime. The allegation against Mr. Nifong is that he broke the law, in this case the law being the Code of Ethics pursuant to which all attorneys are required to conform their legal practices. The fact that some 18-21 year olds exercised poor judgment does not justify a prosecutor sitting in his office with no immediate threat of harm or injury to himself or any person (the conditions under which actions otherwise criminal may be excused) breaking the law. Mr. Nifong was able to choose what he did, and he was required to follow all applicable laws and regulations in undertaking his choice.

  • Lizard Paw Mar 4, 2007

    ya'll check out this story,,,,http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/1221297/

  • cbsconsult Mar 4, 2007

    It's amazing that a simple fact has been lost in this entire argument. The plain fact is had the Duke Lacrosse Team exercised good judgement and common sense, the "stripper" would never have been at the party. Everything else that flowed from that moment of bad judgement would not have occurred. You folks rushing to judgement on Nifong are presumably the same ones who lamented the rush to judgement of the lacrosse players. Rightly or wrongly, our judicial system ultimately works - despite its imperfections.