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Law Expert: Cleared Player's Testimony Devastating for Nifong

Posted June 16, 2007

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— A Duke University law professor said Friday that Reade Seligmann's testimony at Mike Nifong's North Carolina State Bar ethics trial was devastating to the district attorney's defense.

"Seligmann sort of let the public see what happens when a prosecutor like this abuses his powers," James Coleman said.

Nifong's civil hearing continues Saturday with the State Bar's three-member Disciplinary Hearing Commission set to decide whether Nifong violated ethics rules in connection with his handling of the Duke lacrosse case.

The State Bar alleges the district attorney made false representations to the court, withheld DNA evidence from defense attorneys representing the three indicted lacrosse players -- Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans -- and violated professional rules of conduct by making misleading and inflammatory comments about the defendants.

If the panel finds that Nifong violated the State Bar's rules of professional conduct, a sentencing phase will begin immediately.

"I think these are basically self-inflicted wounds and he's ruined his career," Coleman said. "And what's ironic about that is that he had a reputation. People thought he had integrity before this. And he's destroyed all of that."

Seligmann -- the 21-year-old sophomore from Essex Fells, N.J., who Nifong had indicted last spring on charges of first-degree rape, kidnapping and sexual assault -- testified about how he was sure DNA evidence would clear him and his 45 other teammates.

He also talked about how Nifong's statements early on in the investigation forced him to change his daily routine before he had been indicted and about a first court appearance in which someone threatened his life.

Seligmann became emotional and tears and sobs filled the courtroom, however, when he started talking about the day he learned he would be indicted and about having to tell his mother that an exotic dancer hired to perform at a lacrosse team party had picked him as one of her attackers.

"I fell to the floor and said, 'My life was over," Seligmann said.

Nifong said later in the day he was moved by Seligmann's testimony and called him "a very impressive young man."

Moments later, mixing expressions of remorse and admissions of guilt with proclamations of ignorance, Nifong tearfully named each cleared player by named, apologized and then said he would resign as district attorney.

"I will go to my grave being associated with this case. And that's OK," Nifong said. "Whatever mistakes I made in this case were my mistakes. But they're not all the ones that the bar says I made, but they are my mistakes."

For months, critics have called for Nifong to resign. But for months, Nifong, as well as his attorneys, has said he had no plans to do so.

The announcement came as a shock to many, including the lawyers and families of the cleared players. They seemed unfazed by the announcement.

"It's like one of the mother's said today after Mr. Nifong's pretend tears and apology -- that 15 minutes of self-absorbed crying doesn't make up for 15 months of trying to incarcerate their innocent children," Evans former defense attorney, Joseph Cheshire said.

Just what affect Nifong's resignation will have on the disciplinary committee's decision remains unknown.

Cheshire criticized the decision, calling it a "cynical ploy to save his law license."

But some legal observers said they doubt his intention to resign will have any affect on the disciplinary commission's decision.

"I think it was ending his term as a DA on his terms," criminal defense attorney and former Wake County Assistant District Attorney Hart Miles said.

28 Comments

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  • str8-line Jun 16, 2007

    nifong's future is ruined. These boys will move on and probably have book deals. It is time for everyone to move on. Everyone here is jumping on the band wagon just to have their say published.

  • Gray-Fox Jun 16, 2007

    The Herald_ Sun Had front page article this am from Richard Broadhead about great harm to the families and ths Durham Community, think back to his statements and other Instructors at Duke and the dismissal of the Coach. None of these people stood up for their students. Mr. Nifong is now having his day in court May be Justice will be served at the end of the day.

  • Junebug Jun 16, 2007

    I agree with B Real. The parents of these 3 young men have always acted like their boys are angels, and that they have done nothing wrong. I would be ashamed if I knew that my son had been present at a party like this. They should have avoided this situation like the plague. If they hadn't been there in the first place, they wouldn't have been through this ordeal. I'm not saying that Nifong did no wrong. He should hang. But ultimately it was the boy's lack of moral character that landed them in hot water.

  • wcnc Jun 16, 2007

    I still am not buying the arguement that these family have the money to have gone through this..... They borrow bail money from a friend and maybe they mortgaged their houses to pay for lawyers. I don't feel these parents should be out any amount of money because of lies and "mistakes" as Nifong calls them. Hopefully there is some way they can get their money back...

  • Harvey Jun 16, 2007

    Whoops... I screwed that up too... Attorney General... NOT Sec. of State hehe... sorry

  • thfan Jun 16, 2007

    This case is proof that public servants are just that...public servants and Nifong is an example of the reason why good public servants are viewed through a magnifying glass and critisized t the extent that they are when most are serving the public for much less pay than a District Attorney. Shame on him for his selfish motives.

  • FlSunshine Jun 16, 2007

    He did what he did in a deliberate ploy to sway the election and get elected. He played to the audience in Durham and, guess what, they bought it and elected him. A perfect example of why people need to be informed and educated when they go to the polls and vote.....not voting from emotion or bias.

  • rayzer Jun 16, 2007

    "Whatever mistakes I made in this case were my mistakes. But they're not all the ones that the bar says I made, but they are my mistakes."

    What, specifically ARE your mistakes, Mr. Nifong? You have apologized for nothing. The bar is wrong and you are right. What arrogance.

    Disbarment is not enough for this man.

  • pedsRN Jun 16, 2007

    Fortunately for these young men, their families did have the money to hire the attorneys who in turn found the evidence that ultimately cleared them. 46 young men submitted DNA samples & NONE matched the 5 male DNA found on the dancer.
    Money was missing from the dancer's purse? Payment may have happened before her arrival & she had already spent the majority of it. She didn't deserve any of it for 5 minutes of a 2 hour performance!!!
    Nifong's tears were TOO little TOO late. An apology to these young men should have happened a long time ago! Reade Seligmann had an alibi, had ATM security footage of his alibi, BUT he was still indicted.

  • 12345 Jun 16, 2007

    as for Nifong he sould save our tax dollars and hand over his law license.

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