Local News

State Won't Defend Nifong in Lacrosse Players' Suit

Posted October 18, 2007
Updated October 19, 2007

— The North Carolina Attorney General's Office on Thursday rejected a request by former Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong to represent him in a federal lawsuit filed by three former Duke University lacrosse players.

In a letter sent to Nifong Thursday, Chief Deputy Attorney General Grayson Kelley wrote that state law allows the Attorney General's Office to deny legal representation to state officials being sued for actions outside the scope of their official duties or actions that involved fraud, corruption or malice.

Nifong's lawyer, James B. Craven III, of Durham, sent a letter Thursday, saying he was disappointed with the decision. He added that it does not "provide much comfort for state employees threatened with civil liability for actions taken in the course of their employment with the state."

Last week, Nifong asked the state to provide him with defense attorneys in the case or pay for his legal fees because he was a state employee at the time he prosecuted the sexual assault case involving David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann.

Two weeks ago, attorneys for the three players filed the federal lawsuit against Nifong, the city of Durham and others linked to the case. They are asking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees and numerous changes in the way the Durham Police Department handles criminal investigations.

The case against Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann was dismissed in April after special prosecutors deemed there was no credible evidence to support a woman's allegation that the men attacked her while she was performing as a stripper at an off-campus team party in March 2006.

Nifong was disbarred in June after a North Carolina State Bar disciplinary panel found he had violated several rules of professional conduct in his handling of the lacrosse case. He resigned his position a few weeks later.

He was found guilty of criminal contempt of court a month later for making false statements in a September 2006 court hearing in the case. He served a one-day sentence in the Durham County Jail.

Nifong now has about two weeks to respond to the civil complaint against him.

A spokesman for the Administrative Office of the Courts said the agency will also decline to defend him.


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  • nycole125 Oct 20, 2007

    I feel sorry for his son, less for his wife who encouraged him in his bid for election. He , Liefong, deserves to be punished because he trampled over our laws, at the expense of three innocent people. Maybe the Gang of 88, V Peterson and her friends can establish a "defense fund". Or "moveon.org". Or JJackson, AlSharpton and the NBP.

  • richard2 Oct 20, 2007

    First time I've seen lawyers not stick together. This is very unusual.

  • Tom Bombadil Oct 19, 2007

    Does Mike Nifong's 2 degrees from UNC Chapel Hill not count for anything? He is a card-carrying UNC-Chapel Hill Tarheel to the bone. What have we been reduced to when we attack a native son of one of most prestigious universities on the east coast? Lets drop this mess so we can move forward.

  • oneday8035 Oct 19, 2007

    I read the letter from Nifong's attorney and if that is what is representing him then he does not stand a snowball's chance in he!! of coming out of this with anything. A NC middle school child could have written that letter, then again, a middle school child would have done a better job with this whole mess. All I can say is lot's of luck Mikey...you're going to need it.

  • doodad Oct 19, 2007

    Nifong didn't mind ruining 3 young men's lives to benefit himself for political gain, so why should the state pay to represent him now that he is being justifiably sued? I say "justice is being served".

  • gnew46 Oct 19, 2007

    "He served one night in jail, I think because of fraud?" TruBKnown

    He was sentenced because he lied to Judge Smith regarding the exculpatory evidence which he knew would exonerate the 3 former lacross players, a misdemeanor with a 30 day maximum sentence. He probably would have served more time had Judge Ronald Stephens not defended him so strenously. Voters should remember this when Stephens is up for reelection. The AG should not represent him nor should the state have to pay for his defense. Illegal acts were not within the scope of his duties as DA.

  • nycole125 Oct 19, 2007

    If he could only turn the clock back by one year.. His arrogance is boundless, nevermind delusional. Liefong was on his own, blinded by political ambition when he maneuvered the DPD and the black constituency.Most were too intimadated so they helped him in his crime. It comes to mind the "goodness" & "integrity"signs held by Peterson &Co.Do these people realize they were manipulated for his political gain? He HIMSELF should pay for his misdeeds, not the taxpayers.

  • BigUNCFan Oct 19, 2007

    Dumb de dumb dumb

  • travelinlight05 Oct 19, 2007


  • Adelinthe Oct 19, 2007

    Nor should it. This guy made his own mess, and he should clean it up all by himself - whether he was in office at the time or not.

    Praying for those he hurt, and for his family who is suffering as well from his egotistical rampage.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB