More se­ri­ous ethics charges filed against Duke pros­e­cu­tor

The Washington Times Weekly - - From Page One - By Jerry Seper

The North Carolina pros­e­cu­tor who tar­geted three Duke lacrosse play­ers on sex­ual as­sault and kid­nap­ping charges on Jan. 24 was named on new ethics vi­o­la­tions, ac­cused­ofwith­hold­ingDNAev­i­dence from de­fense at­tor­neys and mis­lead­ing the court.

The new and more se­ri­ous charges are in ad­di­tion to an ear­lier com­plaint by the North Carolina State Bar ac­cus­ing Durham County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Michael B. Ni­fong of “dis­hon­esty, fraud, de­ceit or mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion” in pub­lic com­ments about the case, which he “knew or rea­son­ably should have known would have a sub­stan­tial like­li­hood of ma­te­ri­ally prej­u­dic­ing” the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

TheS­tateBar­saidMr.Ni­fon­galso made “false state­ments of ma­te­rial fac­tor­law”tothe­courtre­gard­inghis case against Collin Fin­nerty, 20, of Gar­den City, N.Y.; Reade W. Seligmann, 20, of Es­sex Fells, N.J.; and DavidF.Evans,23,ofAn­napo­lis,Md. and failed to make a “timely dis­clo­sure to the de­fense of all ev­i­dence or in­for­ma­tion­known­to­himthat­tends to negate the guilt of the ac­cused.”

“The al­le­ga­tions in the amended com­plaint speak for them­selves,” saidL.ThomasLunsfordII,theS­tate Bar’sex­ec­u­tivedi­rec­tor,al­thoughhe de­clined to elab­o­rate. He said only the new charges “re­late to cir­cum­stances”that­sur­facedafterthes­tate bar’s griev­ance com­mit­tee filed the orig­i­nal com­plaint.”

Ques­tion­s­aboutMr.Ni­fong’shan­dling of DNA ev­i­dence in the case sur­faced last month when it was learned that his of­fice had ar­ranged for tests through a private lab, DNA Se­cu­rity Inc.

DuringaDec.15pre­tri­al­hear­ing, DNA Se­cu­rity Di­rec­tor Brian Mee­han said he shared tests re­sults with Mr. Ni­fong, but a sum­mary re­port given to the de­fense did not con­tain the in­for­ma­tion that se­men found in the ac­cuser’s un­der­pants and in her body did not match any of the Duke play­ers. He said the de­ci­sion not to re­lease the ma­te­rial was “an in­ten­tion­al­lim­i­ta­tion”atwhich­he­andMr. Ni­fong ar­rived.

It­was­six­month­safter­thetestre­sults had been com­plete be­fore Mr. Ni­fong in­formed de­fense at­tor­neys about the re­sults. Dur­ing that time, he said in court mo­tions, he was not aware of any in­for­ma­tion that could ex­on­er­ate the three Duke play­ers.

The Duke play­ers, all white, orig­i­nal­ly­w­erecharged­with­re­strain­ing a 28-year-old black stu­dent of North Carolina Cen­tral Univer­sity in a bath­room dur­ing an off-cam­pus party, rap­ing her and com­mit­ting an­other first-de­gree sex of­fense against her. The wo­man had been hired as a strip­per at the party.

Mr. Ni­fong dis­missed the rape charges af­ter a Dec. 21 in­ter­view of the wo­man dur­ing which she said she was not cer­tain Mr. Seligmann had­tak­en­partinth­e­as­saultand­was not sure whether she had been pen­e­trated dur­ing the at­tack, a nec­es­sary el­e­ment of the crime of rape un­der North Carolina law.

Mr.Ni­fong­has­s­ince­hande­dover the case to State At­tor­ney Gen­eral Roy A. Cooper.

TheS­tateBar,whosedis­ci­plinary com­mis­sion­can­dis­mis­sacom­plaint, is­sue a let­ter of warn­ing, im­pose an ad­mo­ni­tion or rep­ri­mand, cen­sure, sus­pend or dis­bar a lawyer, has set May11asa­tri­al­date­forMr.Ni­fong.

Rep. Peter T. King, New York Repub­li­canand­former­chair­manofthe House Home­land Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, asked At­tor­ney Gen­eral Al­ber­toR.Gon­za­leslast­week­toas­sign Jus­tice De­part­ment at­tor­neys and the FBI to in­ves­ti­gate Mr. Ni­fong’s han­dling of the case.

Mr. King said a re­view he con­ducted­of­doc­u­mentsand­sum­maries of Mr. Ni­fong’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion, along with dis­cus­sions with other mem­ber­sofCongress,led­to­his­call­forthe Jus­ticeDepart­ment­probe.He­called on the de­part­ment to tar­get Mr. Ni­fong and mem­bers of his staff, in­clud­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tor Lin­dell Wil­son; the Durham Po­lice De­part­ment, in­clud­ing Of­fi­cers Mark Got­tlieb and Ben­jamin Hi­man; and Mr. Mee­han.

He said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion should de­ter­minewhether“the­se­an­dother in­di­vid­u­als con­spired to vi­o­late and vi­o­lat­edthe­con­sti­tu­tion­al­lyguar­an­teed civil rights of Collin and his two for­mer team­mates.”

Jus­ticeDepart­mentof­fi­cial­shave said it would be pre­ma­ture to ini­ti­ate an in­ves­ti­ga­tion while crim­i­nal charges are pend­ing.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Michael B. Ni­fong

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