Local News

Nifong Probe Possible, U.S. Attorney General Says

Posted December 17, 2006 6:29 p.m. EST
Updated December 17, 2006 6:51 p.m. EST

— The United States Attorney General suggested Sunday that his office might investigate the way District Attorney Mike Nifong has handled the Duke lacrosse rape case.

In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales confirmed he received a letter asking for a federal probe into the investigation, in which an exotic dancer claims three lacrosse players raped her at a March 13 party.

"Well, that is a letter that we recently received," Gonzales told Fox News' Brian Wilson. "It's being evaluated at the (Department of Justice). I can't say anything -- anything beyond that."

Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-North Carolina, sent Gonzales the letter last week asking for a federal investigation into possible prosecutorial misconduct, and specifically, to determine whether the defendants' civil rights were violated.

"I was offended by the way (Nifong) has handled this case," Jones told WRAL last week. "I think he has been out of control."

Gonzales said that even though the case is a state and local matter, the federal government could still become involved "if an investigation is conducted in such a way that civil rights laws are violated, that would be something that we might look into," Gonzales said.

Last week, defense attorneys also filed several motions in the case. One, criticizing the way DNA evidence was revealed, indicated that no DNA from any of the defendants was found on the accuser's body but that there were numerous male matches.

"There was no attempt to hide anything from the way the report was done," Nifong told reporters on Friday. "If anything, we were trying to be fair to all the people who were not going to be involved in this case."

Other motions asked that a photographic lineup be dismissed as evidence, because it was slanted. A third motion asked for a change of venue, saying that Nifong has polarized the local community with comments he made during the initial stages of the investigation.

All three men charged in the case – David Evans, 23, Collin Finnerty, 20, and Reade Seligmann, 20 -- have maintained their innocence from the beginning.

The next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 5 when defense attorneys are expected to ask Judge Osmond Smith to throw out the photo identification lineup.

The accuser in this case is also expected to be in court.