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Sentence Over, Nifong Is Out

Former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong walked out of the the Durham County Jail Saturday after serving his one-day jail sentence for criminal contempt.

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DURHAM, N.C. — Mike Nifong served his jail sentence and went home Saturday, less effusive than he was when he was Durham district attorney and discussed the case against three Duke lacrosse players with the national media.

"I want to express my sincere appreciation to Maj. (Natalie) Holiday, to all of the staff at the detention center, for the professionalism with which I was treated and the respect which I was shown. Other than that, I just want to go home and spend some time with my family," he said.

Nifong was released from the Durham County Jail after serving 24 hours for criminal contempt.

When Nifong walked out of the downtown jail, a crowd of nearly two dozen supporters greeted him, along with his parents. He thanked the supporters, who also had accompanied him to the jail Friday morning.

"It really means a lot to me to have the people who came down yesterday when I came down and to have them down here again today. It means a whole lot to me. It really does,” Nifong said before he got into a car to be driven away.

Sources told WRAL that Nifong was in isolation, away from the general jail population, for safety reasons while he served his 24-hour sentence.

Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III found Nifong guilty of lying about DNA evidence in the Duke lacrosse case. That evidence, Smith said, would have cleared three men – Reade Seligmann, David Evans and Collin Finnerty – falsely accused of assaulting Crystal Mangum at a team party.

Smith said his decision was aimed at "protecting and preserving the integrity of the court and its processes."

Nifong dismissed rape charges against the three men in December. A month later, he recused himself from the case after the North Carolina State Bar opened an ethics complaint against him. The state Attorney General's Office took over the case and later dismissed the rest of the charges against the men in April.

In June, a disciplinary committee of the State Bar found Nifong violated several rules of professional conduct in his handling the case and stripped him of his law license. He resigned as district attorney a couple of weeks later.

Nifong has since apologized for what he called "mistakes" in the case.