Local News

Nifong: Grassroots Groups Trying to Run Him out of Office

Posted March 2, 2007 6:22 p.m. EST
Updated March 2, 2007 9:00 p.m. EST

— In a letter to the North Carolina State Bar, the embattled former prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse case complains about how grassroots groups are trying to run him out of office.

The Dec. 28 letter is an attachment to Mike Nifong's written response filed Wednesday to an ethics complaint filed by the North Carolina State Bar.

In it, Nifong cites one group, Friends of Duke University -- a group of alumni, parents and supporters of the school -- that takes aim at how he handled the case and has also provided instructions on a blog about how to petition for the DA's removal.

"A well-connected and well-financed (but not, I would suggest, a well-intentioned) group of individuals … have taken it upon themselves to ensure that this case never reaches trial," Nifong writes in the eight-page letter to the State Bar's Grievance Committee.

The letter was dated the same day the Bar initially filed an ethics complaint against Nifong for allegedly breaking rules of professional conduct in the case against the three Duke lacrosse athletes accused of sexually assaulting an exotic dancer last March.

Nifong continues in the letter: "If this seems like paranoid delusion to you, perhaps you should check out Web sites... such as (Friends of Duke University)."

But the founding member of the group, University of Maryland law professor and Duke graduate Jason Trumpbour, offers no apologies.

"I think Mike Nifong has to realize he is the author of his own misfortune," Trumpbour said.

"Given his conduct, he doesn't deserve to be in office," he added. "I got involved in this case, because early on, it became clear to me that these defendants were not getting a fair trial."

WRAL was unable to reach Nifong for comment on Friday.

In its initial complaint, the State Bar cited more than 100 examples of public statements Nifong made to the media, including WRAL, since the case broke in March. In part, the Bar said those comments "have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused."

In January, the Bar amended the complaint, adding that Nifong allegedly withheld DNA evidence from defense attorneys -- exculpatory evidence that could negate a defendant's guilt.

In his written response this week, Nifong said he did not intentionally violate ethics rules and denied that he intentionally withheld evidence.

A series of public hearings will be held before the State Bar's Disciplinary Commission and will eventually lead to a public trial, possibly in June. If the Bar finds Nifong guilty, he could be disbarred.

Amid mounting scrutiny of his handling of the sexual assault case, Nifong recused himself from it in January and asked the North Carolina Attorney General's Office to appoint a special prosecutor.

The criminal trial for the defendants -- Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans -- was expected to go to trial this spring but has been delayed as new prosecutors review evidence in the case.

Seligmann, Finnerty and Evans were indicted last year on charges of first-degree rape, sexual assault and kidnapping, but Nifong dropped the rape charges in December because the accuser said she could not testify with certainty that she was raped.

All three suspects still face the two other charges. Throughout the investigation, they have maintained their innocence in the case