North Carolina State Bar Issues Disbarment Order for Nifong
Posted July 12, 2007 11:50 a.m. EDT
Updated July 12, 2007 11:12 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina State Bar on Thursday issued a formal order disbarring Mike Nifong for his handling of the discredited Duke lacrosse rape case.
Nifong must surrender his law license to the bar no later than 30 days from when he is served with the order. He must also pay costs associated with his weeklong ethics trial last month, including those incurred by the court reporter and witnesses.
A disciplinary hearing committee decided to disbar Nifong – who has resigned as Durham County's district attorney – after finding he had committed at least two dozen violations of the state's rules of professional conduct.
Among the violations: Nifong lied to the court and withheld DNA evidence that showed genetic material from several males – though none from a Duke lacrosse player – was found on and about the accuser.
In court documents and hearings in May, June and September, Nifong told two different judges that he had no more evidence that could be considered helpful to the defense.
He said he didn't realize until months later that the additional DNA information was missing.
"My first reaction was a variation of 'oh crap,'" Nifong said at the disciplinary hearing committee. "'I didn't give them this?'"
The woman had told police she was attacked by three men at a March 2006 lacrosse team party for which she was hired to perform as a stripper. Nifong secured indictments for rape, kidnapping and sexual offense against Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans.
Nifong dropped the rape charges in December after the accuser changed a key detail of her story, and he gave the case to state prosecutors the following month amid the ethics allegations.
State prosecutors dropped the remaining charges in April. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper called the trio innocent victims of a "tragic rush to accuse."
At the State Bar disciplinary hearing, when Nifong was asked if he still believed whether the accuser was attacked, Nifong said he could not say it was a sexual assault.
"Something happened to make everybody leave that scene very quickly," he said.
Nifong is scheduled to appear in court July 26 to face criminal contempt charges. That hearing has been scheduled by Superior Court Judge Osmond Smith, who oversaw the Duke lacrosse case.