Local News

Nifong Contempt Hearing Delayed

Posted July 17, 2007 4:20 p.m. EDT
Updated July 18, 2007 8:56 a.m. EDT

— A July 26 hearing to determine whether Durham County's former district attorney should face contempt charges has been delayed.

In an filed Monday, Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III postponed the hearing and scheduled a preliminary hearing for that date to determine motions, formulate issues and clarify and stipulate matters regarding evidence.

Last month, Smith found probable cause to believe Mike Nifong, in his handling of the now-defunct Duke lacrosse case, "willfully and intentionally made false statements of material fact" in regard to exculpatory DNA evidence during two hearings last year.

Defense attorneys for the three cleared defendants -- David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann -- filed a motion last month alleging Nifong broke at least a dozen rules and court orders designed to protect due process.

Smith's decision was based on Nifong's request through his attorneys, James R. Glover and Ann B. Petersen, and defense attorneys , according to the order.

Nifong could face a possible fine as well as a jail sentence if he is found in contempt. Criminal contempt can carry anywhere from 30 to 90 days in jail.

Last Thursday, the North Carolina State Bar issued a formal order disbarring Nifong, after a disciplinary panel found he violated at least two dozen violations of the State Bar's rules of professional conduct while prosecuting the case.

Nifong dropped rape charges against Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann in December; state prosecutors dismissed the case in April; and Attorney General Roy Cooper declared all three men innocent, calling them victims of a "tragic rush to accuse."

After 28 years in the Durham County District Attorney's Office, Nifong resigned from office July 2.