Local News

Nifong Asks More Time to Answer State Bar Complaint

Posted January 23, 2007 10:44 a.m. EST
Updated January 23, 2007 9:44 p.m. EST

— Durham County District Attorney wants more time to respond to an ethics complaint levied against him by the North Carolina State Bar.

Last month, the bar cited dozens of pretrial comments Nifong made to the media early on in his investigation of three Duke University lacrosse players accused of sexually assaulting an exotic dancer.

David Freedman, who represents Nifong, said it is common for attorneys facing ethics complaints to ask for an extension.

"You only have 20 days, and that's not enough time to take in this case," Freedman said. "There's volumes and volumes we need to review. We need to discuss the case with him, and we need to get a better feel before we respond to the case."

Tom Lunsford, with the state bar, said he does not object to giving an extension, but it has not yet been granted.

The issue will likely not be discussed until a bar meeting scheduled for Wednesday. Nifong is expected to attend the hearing, but he is not required to be there.

The case against Nifong could go to trial as early as May.

Last month, Nifong dropped rape charges against the three defendants in the case after the accuser wavered in her account of key details in the case. The three men, Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans, still face sexual assault and kidnapping charges. All three men have maintained their innocence.

Nifong stepped down from the case earlier this month because the pending ethics charges created a conflict of interest, Freedman said.

"He regretted having to leave the case," Freedman said. "It was no indication of his views on the strength or weakness of the case. It was in no way a concession to the allegations against him."

State Attorney General Roy Cooper has appointed two lawyers in his office to take over the lacrosse case. They are reviewing all the files in the case.