Local News

U.S. judge gives green light for suit against Nifong

Posted December 4, 2008 4:26 p.m. EST
Updated December 4, 2008 9:58 p.m. EST

— A federal district judge has agreed with a bankruptcy judge's ruling that a civil rights lawsuit against Duke lacrosse prosecutor Mike Nifong can move forward.

The former Durham County district attorney filed for bankruptcy in January, which temporarily protected him from the civil litigation brought by the three Duke University lacrosse players prosecuted on charges of rape, sexual assault and kidnapping.

Following a bankruptcy hearing in February, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge William L. Stocks put the bankruptcy case on hold until the civil action was resolved.

In June, Nifong appealed Stocks' ruling.

But U.S. District Judge James Beaty, in his ruling Thursday, agreed with Stocks that if the claims against Nifong result in a judgment, the matter would then be referred to bankruptcy court for further proceedings.

Nifong won indictments against David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann after a stripper hired to perform at a March 2006 team party reported being raped. But the case unraveled in the face of the accuser's constantly changing story and a lack of evidence.

The state prosecutors who eventually took over the case dropped all charges and declared the players innocent victims of Nifong's "tragic rush to accuse." He was later disbarred for his handling of the case and spent a night in jail for lying to a judge.

Nifong’s January bankruptcy filing came on the same day he and others involved in the criminal case were to submit responses to the players' federal lawsuit.

Nifong listed Evans, Finnerty and 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, each owed $30 million.

More than 30 other lacrosse players from that team are also listed as creditors, each owed $1; the North Carolina State Bar, owed $8,397.71 for costs related to his disbarment; and nearly 70 other people involved with or associated in some way with the nearly yearlong criminal investigation.