Local News

'Something Happened,' Nifong Maintains

Posted June 15, 2007

— Even after saying Friday he intended to resign as Durham County's lead prosecutor, Mike Nifong was incapable of agreeing that no crime was committed inside 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. during a Duke lacrosse team party that began March 13, 2006.

Asked if he still believed whether the accuser was attacked, Nifong paused for several seconds late Friday afternoon before answering although he could not say it was a sexual assault, "something happened to make everybody leave that scene very quickly."

The district attorney testified that he initially formed his belief that a rape had occurred on March 27, 2006, based on the opinions of the investigating officers and the opinion of the sexual assault nurse examiner.

He believed it up until Dec. 22 of that year when he dismissed the charges against Reade Seligmann, David Evans and Collin Finnerty, he said.

Nifong testified for more than eight hours Friday before his attorneys called several other witnesses to testify on his behalf.

Among them were the SANE nurse, Tara Levicy, who examined Crystal Mangum on March 14, 2006, hours after the alleged assault, and several character witnesses who have worked with Nifong spanning his nearly three-decade law career.

The ethics trial adjourned at about 8:45 p.m. and was scheduled to resume 9 a.m. Saturday. State Bar Disciplinary Hearing Commission Chairman F. Lane Williamson said he hoped to begin with closing arguments and deliberations.

If the three-member committee finds that Nifong violated State Bar ethics rules, the hearing will immediately go into a second phase in which a punishment would be determined.

Nifong faces charges that he lied to the court about potentially exculpatory DNA evidence and withheld it from defense attorneys in the case.

Since opening their case on Tuesday, State Bar prosecutors have largely focused on the DNA testing, specifically when Nifong learned about the full extent of the 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 said when he gave the defense the initial report, he "believed at the time that I had given them everything." In court documents and hearings in May, June and September, he told two different judges that he had no more evidence that could be considered helpful to the defense.

He said he didn't realize until months later that the additional DNA information was missing.

"My first reaction was a variation of 'oh crap,'" Nifong said. "'I didn't give them this?'"

The DNA tests found genetic material from several males in the accuser's underwear and body, but none from any lacrosse player. Aware of those results, Nifong pressed ahead with the case and won indictments against Seligmann, Evans and Finnerty.

Nifong also admitted to charges that he violated ethics rules when he spoke publicly about the case early in the investigation, including when he called the players a "bunch of hooligans" and confidently proclaiming he wouldn't allow Durham to become known for "a bunch of lacrosse players from Duke raping a black girl."

"The comment about race was not a comment that should have been made," Nifong said.

Nifong said he "maybe got carried away a little bit" but spoke publicly to let the public know the allegations were being taken seriously and also to attempt to get more information about the case.

When he realized he wasn't getting any information from the public about the case, he said he stopped.

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  • skelllum Jun 16, 9:28 a.m.

    Still waiting to hear from Al Sharpton and the "black leadership" that cried about the "crime" committed, and how it has affected all people of color (except whites, since white is not a color). Where is Jesse Jackson now? Just once I would like the self declared voice of the African-American citizens to speak up and say "they"were wrong and an injustice has been done. It will never ever, ever happen!

  • sissie Jun 16, 8:25 a.m.

    Sorry about the whole rape case. To bad other defendents in other parts of the state did not have money. Nothing happen to the the people in charge,it was sweep under the rug .Did anyone even apolige NO. So boys get over it .Your parents had MONEY. What a relief. Imagine no money where do you think those guys are.

  • Itxassou Jun 16, 7:29 a.m.

    Prosecutor Mike Nifong recklessly pursued a rape case that he knew was phony. "Oh gee I'm so sorry and I resign" doesn't cut it. Aide to Vice President Cheney Scooter Libby was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for not remembering some details of a non-crime. I hope the families of the Duke students go after the University with a lawsuit. Duke University didn't even make the most feeble effort ot ascertain the Lacrosse players of their innocence, worse yet Duke University let its faculty members pile on the students and made no attempt to rein them. I think you call it "academic freedom" Well freedom has its price. I think compensatory and punitive damages are due the Duke students. 15% of Duke's endowment fund sounds like a nice round figure. Then let Duke reassess its position and go after the faculty and anyone else who caused harm to the Duke Lacrosse students. Let Duke go after Nifong and his collaborator Crystal Mangum. She most of all deserves punishment.

  • computer trainer Jun 16, 4:22 a.m.

    FragmentFour, I am not saying that they will not hold their heads high, but even one of them commented that even if they find a cure for cancer, it would be reported: XXX, former Duke Lacrosse player accused of rape, finds the cure for cancer. It is sad, but unfortunately, it will be true. They do not deserve it.

  • FragmentFour Jun 16, 4:12 a.m.

    computer trainer--"Even with those good lawyers, their lives will be FOREVER tainted by this."

    Don't be so quick to sell these young men short - there lives will NOT be tainted by this unless they set out to make it so. And at least two of the won't. Dave Evans I don't know and won't comment on, but Reade and Collin will continue do exactly what Reade stated they've already done - hold their heads up, look the world in the face, and KNOW they're clear. It won't be easy or painless, but they will do it - and they will put this behind them. The boy who has TRULY lost something is Nifong's son. I hope he can learn from these two.

  • seankelly15 Jun 16, 1:15 a.m.

    Gene - 'WHO REALLY CARES ANYMORE'? Apparently you and at least 229 others who have posted comments to this board.

  • GroupOfPricklyPears Jun 15, 11:50 p.m.

    I do not believe anything Nifong says. In my opinion, he's still playing games, he still hasn't RESIGNED.

  • Rebel Jun 15, 11:50 p.m.

    I was not impressed by the crocodile tears shed by Nifong. I do hope the Bar does the right thing and removes his license to practice law.

  • Gene Jun 15, 11:29 p.m.

    WHO REALLY CARES ANYMORE, in the last year this story has been run so far into the ground it is no longer worth turning on the TV to see if there is any actual news reported.

  • 4300 joe bost road Jun 15, 10:56 p.m.

    Finally this self righteous individual admits that his ambition is the cause of his involvement. As Shakespeare said, ambition leads to unsound decisions.

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