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01-12-07, 10:19 PM #1
DA Nifong Wants Out of Duke "Rape" Case
Prosecutor Asks State to Take Over Duke Case
By DUFF WILSON
DURHAM, N.C., Jan. 12 ó The district attorney has asked the state attorney general to take over prosecution of the sexual offense and kidnapping case against three Duke University lacrosse players, an official involved in the case said today.
Michael B. Nifong, the Durham district attorney, faxed the request to Jim Coman, head of the state attorney generalís special prosecution unit, today, the official said. Mr. Nifong decided he had no choice but to hand off the case because he faces a conflict of interest with ethics charges pending against him for his public comments on the case, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because there has yet to be an official announcement of the request.
If the attorney generalís office agrees to take the case, it will remove a prosecutor who has been a lightning rod for criticism. The district attorneyís request also indicates that the accuser still wants to press ahead with the case.
Late this afternoon, the attorney generalís office confirmed it had received the request. Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for the office, said officials there will discuss the situation tomorrow.
Mr. Nifong made the decision following lengthy conversations with the accuser in his courthouse office Thursday and again today, according to the official involved in the case.
Mr. Nifong had planned to recuse himself since shortly after the North Carolina State Bar filed an ethics complaint against him on Dec. 26, because that put him in a conflict of interest between defending his actions and prosecuting the case, the official said. But he had not been able to talk with the accuser about that because she had been in precarious health at the end of a pregnancy, the official said. The woman gave birth Jan. 3.
The official said the attorney generalís office was expected to accept the referral. But the fate of the case is uncertain: Many experts wonder if the attorney general or another prosecutor will quickly drop the charges after assessing weaknesses in the credibility of the accuser, an African-American stripper who said she was sexually assaulted by three white lacrosse players at a team party last March 13. Defense motions have attacked her credibility and mental health.
In recent weeks, the racially and politically charged Duke case has increasingly turned against Mr. Nifong, who is to go before a state disciplinary board in the ethics case May 11, and the accuser. Three weeks ago, Mr. Nifong dropped the rape charges after the accuser told an investigator that she could not be sure what had penetrated her. The prosecution continued with felony sexual-offense and kidnapping charges, which carry equally severe penalties.
The special prosecutions section of the North Carolina Department of Justice can step in on criminal cases when requested by the district attorney and approved by the attorney general. Mr. Cooperís office did not return a phone call late today.
The unitís guidelines say: "A request for assistance may be granted, if the attorney general personally approves, by reason that the unique circumstances of the case justify participation by this Section to insure proper administration of justice."
Mr. Nifongís letter to the attorney generalís office specifically cited the bar complaint.
The special prosecutions unit has people with years of experience prosecuting cases in various counties of the state, Irving Joyner, a law professor at North Carolina Central University who is monitoring the Duke case for the N.A.A.C.P., said in an interview Thursday. "Iím confident they would do a good job," Mr. Joyner said.
Mr. Coman of the special prosecution unit is a longtime prosecutor and former director of the State Bureau of Investigation laboratory, which issued a report in the Duke case saying none of the lacrosse playersí blood, semen or saliva was detected on or in the womanís body or clothing..
The accuser is a 28-year-old native of Durham who attended North Carolina Central University and worked nights as a stripper at the time of the incident. She and another woman had been paid $400 each to dance at the team party. She told the police and medical workers early the next morning that she had been gang raped by three men there.
Rape, sexual offense and kidnapping charges were filed April 17 against Collin Finnerty, 20, of Garden City, N.Y., and Reade W. Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J., who were sophomores, and May 15 against David F. Evans, 23, of Annapolis, Md., who had just graduated. The men, who are free on $100,000 bail, have strenuously maintained their innocence.
Mr. Finnerty and Mr. Seligmann were suspended from Duke in the early days of the case, then invited back to school and the team in a decision announced by Richard H. Brodhead, president of Duke University, on Jan. 3.
The case is facing crucial pretrial hearings the week of Feb. 5. Mr. Nifong had told The Times that he would ask the woman to be certain in court of her identification of suspects and that he would dismiss the charges then if she was not certain.
The womanís own accounts of the night have contradicted each other in some key elements, including whether two or all three men assaulted her and what each man did. In her Dec. 21 statement to an investigator, she said for the first time that one of the men, Mr. Seligmann, had refused to participate actively in the alleged attack."I'm not a coward,
I've just never been tested
I'd like to think that if I was,
I would pass"
~Mighty Mighty Bosstones~
01-12-07, 10:24 PM #2
How can that guy look in the mirror? Why doesn't he salvage what little self respect he has and end the witch hunt.Why no, that's not a pregnant anaconda in my pants...why do you ask?
01-12-07, 10:35 PM #3
Wonder who knocked her up shortly after this took place?\\` ` ` ` < ` )___/\
`` ` ` ` (3--(____)
"...but to forget your duck, of course, means you're really screwed." - Gary Larson
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