Local News

Nifong's Top Investigator Toppled

Posted June 25, 2007 12:16 p.m. EDT
Updated June 25, 2007 7:38 p.m. EDT

— Interim Durham County District Attorney Jim Hardin said Monday that investigator who handled the Duke University lacrosse sexual assault case would no longer be employed by the office.

Linwood Wilson was the chief investigator for former District Attorney Mike Nifong. He appears to be the first casualty after Nifong was disbarred and suspended from his office in the last week.

Wilson was hired as a part-time employee in December 2005 in the worthless checks division of the District Attorney's Office, and he was promoted to chief investigator last October. He was responsible for handling the office's investigation into the Duke lacrosse case, including interviewing the accuser, Crystal Mangum, last December, nine months after the sexual assault allegations were made.

Shortly after Wilson interviewed Mangum, rape charges were dismissed against the three lacrosse players who had been indicted in the case.

Officials with the District Attorney's Office said Wilson would "no longer be employed by the Durham DA's office" after Monday. Officials declined to comment further, and it was unclear whether he was fired or was asked to resign.

Separately, a Superior Court judge set a Thursday morning hearing in a civil complaint seeking to remove Nifong from office.

Although Nifong was suspended as Durham County district attorney last week, he remains on the job until his July 13 resignation takes effect.

Judge Orlando Hudson suspended Nifong with pay, saying his presence in the district attorney's office raised credibility questions in all prosecutions. Gov. Mike Easley appointed Hardin, Durham's former district attorney, as an interim replacement until someone could be named to fill the rest of Nifong's term.

At the Thursday hearing, Hudson will address issues raised by Durham resident Beth Brewer. She filed a civil complaint in February demanding that Nifong be removed from office.

Raleigh attorney Robert Zaytoun, who Hudson appointed as a special prosecutor in the case, will present evidence in an effort to prove that Nifong displayed willful misconduct in his handling of the Duke lacrosse case.

The North Carolina State Bar's Disciplinary Hearing Commission stripped Nifong of his ability to practice law on June 16. The three-member panel found that he had violated 27 of 32 ethics charges in the Duke case, including lying to the Bar and the court regarding the lack of DNA evidence against the three lacrosse players charged with attacking a stripper at a March 2006 team party.

Under State Bar rules, the disbarment isn't effective for 30 days.