Local News

N.Y. Attorney Wants Nifong to Resign, Probe of Lacrosse Case

Posted April 19, 2007 4:52 p.m. EDT
Updated April 20, 2007 2:50 p.m. EDT

— A New York attorney representing former Duke lacrosse player Collin Finnerty wants North Carolina's governor and attorney general to publicly call on Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong to resign immediately from office.

"Mr. Nifong has not done the honorable thing and tendered his resignation," attorney Michael Cornacchia writes in an April 17 letter addressed to both Gov. Mike Easley and Attorney General Roy Cooper. "He may do so if you both publicly and unequivocally call for that resignation."

If Nifong does not resign, Cornacchia asks that Easley and Cooper join a complaint filed in February by Durham resident Elizabeth Brewer asking that Nifong be removed from office.

"Your moral suasion and the prestige of your offices … will assist the private litigant who has brought this petition and ensure the appropriate effort and resources are dedicated to this serious matter," he writes.

Cornacchia also asks that Cooper appoint a special prosecutor to seek court approval for a grand jury to investigate Nifong, the Durham Police Department and anyone else who took part in gathering evidence in the Duke lacrosse case.

Last week, Cooper declared Finnerty and two other former lacrosse players innocent of all charges associated with an exotic dancer's claims that she was attacked in a bathroom at a party in March 2006.

Nifong pursued the case until January when he asked Cooper to appoint a special prosecutor to handle it.

In February, Easley publicly stated that Nifong was "probably the poorest appointment" he ever made. And last week, Cooper called Nifong's pursuit of the case "a tragic rush to accuse and a failure to verify serious allegations."

Questions surrounding Nifong and his handling of the case also prompted the North Carolina State Bar to launch an investigation, and Nifong now faces allegations of ethics violations and a June 12 trial date.

In February, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson issued an order to stay any action on Brewer's attempt to remove Nifong from office, basically saying it mirrored the State Bar's charges.

Some legal experts have suggested waiting for the State Bar's decision before proceeding with any other action against Nifong.

But Cornacchia says in his letter that the State Bar will only determine if Nifong violated ethics violations. It cannot address the conduct of Nifong, members of his office or other involved parties.

"The view that the institution of a criminal investigation will somehow prejudice the ethics commission in its inquiry is absurd and an insult to three members of the body hearing this matter," he writes.

Wade Smith, one of three attorneys who represents Finnerty in North Carolina, said he called both Cooper and Easley Wednesday and told them he thinks the appropriate course of action should be to wait until after the State Bar's disciplinary committee hearing.

Cooper's office had not yet received the letter and had no comment Thursday afternoon. WRAL was unable to reach Nifong for comment.