Local News

Nifong Issues Apology to Ex-Lacrosse Players

Posted April 12, 2007 4:45 p.m. EDT
Updated April 12, 2007 7:40 p.m. EDT

— Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong on Thursday apologized to three Duke University lacrosse players that he had indicted on charges of attacking an exotic dancer.

"To the extent that I made judgments that ultimately proved to be incorrect, I apologize to the three students that were wrongly accused," Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong said in a statement released to the media.

"I also understand that whenever someone has been wrongly accused, the harm caused by the accusations might not be immediately undone merely by dismissing them," Nifong continued. "It is my sincere desire that the actions of Attorney General Cooper will serve to remedy any remaining injury that has resulted from these cases."

Nifong acknowledged the decision of state prosecutors to dismiss all charges against David Evans, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty was correct. But, he said, he took issues with some of Attorney General Roy Cooper's comments from Wednesday.

Cooper said Evans, Seligmann and Finnerty were the victims of Nifong's "tragic rush to accuse and a failure to verify serious allegations."

Without naming Nifong, Cooper came down forcefully against "overreaching prosecutors" and called for a law that would allow the state Supreme Court to remove a district attorney from a case whenever such a move would assist the pursuit of justice.

Nifong said he did not have anything to hide when he turned the case over to the state.

"The fact that I chose to seek that review should, in and of itself, call into question the characterizations of this prosecution as 'rogue' and 'unchecked.'"

Finnerty's father, Kevin Finnerty, released a statement late Thursday afternoon calling Nifong's statement "an attempt at an apology" that is "disingenuous and insincere."

"It falls well short of whatever it might take to even remotely repair the damage inflicted on so many people," he said.

Evans' attorney, Joe Cheshire, told WRAL that his client would have the same reaction as Kevin Finnerty.

"If you read the entire statement of Mr. Nifong, he is doing exactly what he's done in the entire case and that is engaging in revisionist history," Cheshire said. "He had access to all the information in the case that showed these young men were innocent. And the only evidence he chose not to look at was what he didn't want to see to tell the truth."

"It's a little bit late to make an apology and to try to say now that it was right that the case be dismissed. It should have been dismissed a year ago," Cheshire added.

Although the criminal investigation in the Duke lacrosse case has ended, Nifong's legal troubles are just beginning. In addition to facing disbarrment for ethics violations alleged by the North Carolina State Bar, he could also face civil lawsuits from the accused lacrosse players and could also be investigated by the state.

When asked by a reporter Wednesday whether the state felt the need to apologize for what happened with the case, Cooper said: "I think a lot of people owe a lot of apologies to other people. I think that those people ought to consider doing that."