Local News

Bankruptcy Hearing Probes Nifong's Finances

Posted February 8, 2008 7:15 a.m. EST
Updated February 8, 2008 8:17 p.m. EST

— A bankruptcy trustee and an attorney representing two former Duke lacrosse players questioned former Durham prosecutor Mike Nifong at his bankruptcy hearing Friday.

Nifong filed for bankruptcy last month, listing a debt of $180.3 million. Almost all of that is the estimated damages from pending civil litigation that stems from the 2006 Duke lacrosse case.

Friday's hearing allowed creditors to question Nifong about his filing. The trustee asked Nifong if he left out any assets in his filing.

Nifong said he left out that he could get an inheritance as part of his mother's will, but added that he was removed.

His mother is still alive, and, "I hope she does not die," Nifong said.

Also not listed in the filing: two vintage guitars, worth about $5,000, a house his wife owns in Ashe County (although Nifong is listed on the mortgage) and a Honda Accord that is in his name.

Nifong also said he does not have professional liability insurance,that he is aware of. He does, however, have insurance for his car, house and life. His wife also has life insurance, he said

After the hearing, Nifong said he did not want to comment.

"It's not appropriate to discuss pending litigation. It's been my policy for 10 years," he said.

Nifong then chuckled as he walked out and said, "I don't enjoy coming to court for these things."

The creditors must decide if they will contest Nifong's bankruptcy filing. More hearings will be scheduled.

Nifong’s January filing came on the same day he and others involved in the Duke lacrosse case were to submit responses to a federal lawsuit by the three men he sought to prosecute.

Charles Davant, a lawyer representing Collin Finnerty and David Evans, asked Nifong during the hearing whether he disagreed with the accusations in the lawsuit.

"It's certainly disputed," Nifong said.

Nifong listed Evans, Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, as well as three other members of Duke University's 2006 men's lacrosse team who filed a separate federal lawsuit, as unsecured creditors and said each is owed $30 million.

More than 30 other lacrosse players from that team were listed as creditors, each owed $1. He also listed the North Carolina State Bar, owed $8,397.71 for costs related to his disbarment, and nearly 70 other people involved in or associated in some way with the nearly yearlong investigation of rape, sexual assault and kidnapping claims by an exotic dancer.

Nifong valued his assets, including his house, car and personal belongings, at $243,898.

Last month, a judge removed Nifong as a defendant in the players' lawsuit but said Nifong could again be added to the suit, depending on the outcome of his bankruptcy case.

If the bankruptcy judge determines Nifong willfully and maliciously injured the players, bankruptcy rules won't protect him from civil litigation.

Seligmann's attorney in the civil case, David Rudolf, said in January that the lawsuit would continue as planned, calling Nifong's bankruptcy filing a small part of the lawsuit at this point.

"Our primary concern is not collecting money from Mike Nifong," Rudolf said. "Our priority is how the city does business and to change how the police department conducts itself."