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06-16-07, 03:20 PM #1
Nifong found guilty of ethics violations
N.C. State Bar: Nifong Guilty of Ethics Violations
Panel Reaches Verdict as Exonerated Duke Players Watch
By LARA SETRAKIAN and CHRIS FRANCESCANI
ABC News Law & Justice Unit
RALEIGH, N.C., June 16, 2007
Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong has been found guilty by the North Carolina State Bar for a battery of ethics violations in the Duke Lacrosse case.
Nifong is expected to be disciplined as early as today. His punishment could range from a written reprimand to disbarment. He already announced Friday his intention to resign as district attorney.
With that, the long saga of what was once known as the Duke Lacrosse rape scandal is over. Nifong's conviction was widely anticipated as justice for the three players who were indicted in spring 2006 on charges of rape, kidnapping, and sexual offense.
In April, the three were cleared of all charges and declared innocent by the attorney general of North Carolina.
All three exonerated Duke Lacrosse players -- Reade Seligmann, David Evans and Collin Finnerty -- were in the courtroom Saturday with their families. They listened intently as the decisions were read but showed little emotion.
Specifically, the bar's three-member disciplinary panel unanimously found Nifong guilty of fraud, dishonesty, deceit or misrepresentation; of making false statements of material fact before a judge; of making false statements of material fact before bar investigators, and of lying about withholding exculpatory DNA evidence.
Nifong had been charged with seven counts of violating the rules of professional conduct that govern attorney conduct in North Carolina.
During closing arguments attorney Doug Brocker of the North Carolina State Bar said Nifong engaged in a "systematic abuse of prosecutorial power and discretion in the Duke Lacrosse case."
"Mr. Nifong did not act as a minister of justice, but as a minister of injustice," Brocker added.
Brocker argued that the central motive for Nifong's decision to prosecute the case was winning a tightly contested election for district attorney. Just after the first indictments in the case, Nifong won a May 2 Democratic primary by a margin of 3 percent.
In his closing statements, Nifong's attorney Dudley Witt admitted that Nifong made committed "egregious mistakes" but said his "was not intentional conduct."
Witt also denied Nifong's use of the case to further any political agenda. He specifically cited Nifong's lack of experience in dealing with the media and argued that Nifong didn't realize until December 2006 that the withheld DNA was significant to the case.
Nifong's nearly-30-year career as a prosecutor ended over the Duke Lacrosse case. During his testimony Friday, Nifong tearfully announced that whatever the bar's choice of punishment he intended to step down as Durham County district attorney.
"My presence as the district attorney in Durham is not furthering the cause of justice," Nifong said. "It is not fair for the people in my community to be represented by someone who is not held in high esteem by either the members of the community or members of the profession."
Nifong also apologized to the three indicted lacrosse players and their families.
But defense attorney Joe Cheshire dismissed Nifong's contrition as contrived and insincere.
"It's a cynical plot designed to save his law license," said Cheshire, who represents the family of David Evans. "It's a tepid apology ... far too little, far too late."
Nifong led the prosecution of three Duke Lacrosse players for rape and sexual assault. The case began in March 2006 when woman hired to strip at a team party accused three players of attacking her in a bathroom. In the months that followed, the case fell apart, riddled by a lack of evidence and an accuser who changed her story repeatedly.
From the early days of the case, Nifong was widely criticized for his handling of the matter. On Friday, Nifong admitted to many of the mistakes that had earned him nationwide infamy.
"I think clearly some of the statements I made were improper," Nifong said, admitting that his comments about the case violated the rules of professional conduct. "I take responsibility for the things I have done in this case."
Nifong also admitted that he should have given defense attorneys all available DNA evidence months earlier than he did. He added that despite her changing story, Nifong never pushed the accuser to explain the inconsistencies in her version of events.
Nifong can appeal the bar's decision.
If he were to get disbarred, it would take effect during the appeals process.
Once Nifong's bar trial concludes, he could still face civil lawsuits from the families of indicted Duke Lacrosse players.
Joe Cheshire, an attorney for the Evans family, said that he expects "excessive civil action" against Nifong.
If his license is suspended or revoked, Nifong loses not only his license, but his livelihood. It's unclear what kind of work, if any, Nifong will do next.
But wherever he goes, Nifong expects the words "Duke Lacrosse" will follow him.
"I will go to my grave being associated with this case," said Nifong. "That's okay. ... I took the responsibility on myself.""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~
06-16-07, 03:24 PM #2GrasshopperVerified LEO
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I guess the only thing left for Nifong is politics.And Shepards we shall be,
for thee, My Lord, for thee,
Power hath descended forth from Thy hand,
That our feet may swiftly carry out Thy Command.
So we shall flow a river forth to Thee
And teeming with souls will it ever be.
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06-16-07, 03:30 PM #3
Wow- an attorney getting disbarred from being unethical? That's like getting thrown out of Weightwatchers for being too fat. You got to be pretty bad off."If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn't thinking." -Gen. George S. Patton
06-16-07, 06:45 PM #4PATROL DEPUTY
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06-16-07, 06:53 PM #5
I watched a few minutes of his trial the other day on Court TV - Yeah, he'd make a perfect politician. I think he has the Clintons beat by a hundred miles on the slime factor.
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