Former Duke Lacrosse Prosecutor Heads to Court
Posted August 29, 2007 6:05 p.m. EDT
Updated August 30, 2007 11:16 a.m. EDT
Durham, N.C. — The criminal contempt case against former Duke lacrosse prosecutor Mike Nifong is scheduled to begin Thursday in Durham.
Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith found probable cause in June to believe Nifong willfully and intentionally made false statements during a Sept. 22 hearing last year in the case against three former Duke University lacrosse players who were accused of raping, sexually assaulting and beating a woman at a party in March 2006.
Smith's order stems from a 42-page motion in which the players' attorneys alleged that Nifong broke at least a dozen rules in court on two occasions. His violations, they said, involved potentially exculpatory evidence that indicated DNA profiles based on evidence from the accuser, Crystal Mangum, matched the profiles of four men who were not lacrosse players.
Nifong released an initial report on the DNA testing in May 2006, knowing that information but failing to release it to defense attorneys, they said in their motion.
He did provide the information to the defense in October in the form of nearly 2,000 pages of raw DNA test data that it took one of the attorneys days to decipher.
If convicted, the disbarred former district attorney could have to pay a $500 fine and spend up to 30 days in jail.
During a preliminary hearing on the matter last month, Nifong admitted publicly for the first time that nothing criminal happened at the March 13-14 party. (Watch Nifong's apology, or read the statement.)
"I agree with the attorney general's statement that there is no credible evidence that Mr. (Reade) Seligmann, Mr. (Collin) Finnerty and Mr. (David) Evans committed any crimes for which they were indicted – or any other crimes against Ms. (Crystal) Mangum – during the party," Nifong said.
"I have admitted on more than one occasion that I have made mistakes in the prosecution of these cases. For that, I sincerely apologize to Mr. Seligmann, Mr. Finnerty, Mr. Evans and to their families," he added.
Defense attorneys for the players also withdrew their motion for criminal sanctions, but said Nifong's apology was not negotiated in exchange for the sanctions being dropped.