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State Bar to Hold First Hearing on Nifong Charges

Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong was expected to attend a North Carolina State Bar hearing into ethics charges against him. (Watch hearing live on WRAL.com at 10 a.m.)

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong was expected to attend a hearing Wednesday into the North Carolina State Bar's charges against him for his handling of the Duke lacrosse sexual assault case.

The bar was expected to hear a request from Nifong's attorney for an extension so he and Nifong can examine records and formulate his response to the bar's ethics complaint.

Nifong was expected to attend the hearing, though he is not required to be there.

David Freedman of Winston-Salem, who represents Nifong, said it is common for attorneys facing ethics complaints to ask for an extension. Tom Lunsford, with the state bar, said he does not object to an extension.

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.

"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."

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

"Anytime a lawyer has to go before a disciplinary hearing committee, it's a big thing because your reputation is under attack," Freedman said.

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.
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Julia Lewis, Reporter
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