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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Duke Lacrosse Scandal: Nifong v. Newsweek

Newsweek Senior Writer Susannah Meadows & Mike NifongMike Nifong is mad. Look out or he'll send you a rambling, long winded, email rant. His Newsweek email rant will soon be dissected, but for now here's the original correspondence in the Nifong v. Newsweek flap.

Office of the District Attorney
State of North Carolina
Fourteenth Prosecutorial District

Michael B. Nifong
District Attorney

Press Release
June 19, 2006

An article in the June 29, 2006, Newsweek, which is scheduled to hit newsstands today, contains the following paragraph:

Asked for an interview last week by NEWSWEEK, Nifong declined, but sent an angry e-mail accusing the national media of getting spun by defense lawyers and sticking to his earlier comments to the press. "None of the 'facts' I know at this time, indeed, none of the evidence I have seen from any source, has changed the opinion that I expressed initially," he wrote. He lashed out at "media speculation" (adding, "and it is even worse on the blogs"). He said that he was bound by ethics rules against commenting any more about the case or evidence.
Because I think the Newsweek report mischaracterizes the tone of my response, and in order to set the context of the briefly quoted remarks, I am today releasing both the original e-mail request for an interview and my response thereto, copies of which are attached to this release.

From: Susannah.Meadows[meadows]@mycingular.blackberry.net
To: Michael.b.nifong
Sent: Tuesday, 13 June 2006 2:46pm ET
Subject: Possible cover story

Dear Mike,
I've been going over these documents in the duke rape case. And I have to tell you that they raise questions about was known while you were making certain assertions. Please can we talk about this. I'm not asking that you comment on anything that isn't public. We're getting ready to do a big story about this, possibly on the cover, about how certain things were said in public
when the facts were known to be different. We won't close the issue until saturday morning. Please think about commenting. As it appears now, it doesn't look good. But I'm sure that's because we haven't heard your side. I can be reached at ___________ I'll be in durham tomorrow night trough friday.all
the best, susannah meadows

Mike Nifong is madFrom: Michael.B.Nifong@NCAOCISD
To: smeado@newsweek.com
Sent: Tuesday, 13 June 2006 4:26pm ET
Subject: RE:Possible cover story

Ms. Meadows

I am afraid that I must decline your request for an interview. All of my public comments in this case were made prior to any specific defendant being identified, and were essentially restricted to 1) my belief that the victim had in fact been sexually assaulted at the 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. address, and 2) my hope that one or more of the persons who were present but not involved with that assault would cooperate with the investigation. Once specific defendants were identified, I considered myself to be ethically bound to avoid any further comments on the case or the evidence. That has left the field pretty much open to the defense attorneys. That part I understand, and have no choice but to live with. What has surprised me is the utter lack of any degree of skepticism of the part of the national media with respect to the claims of the defense attorneys, many of which are misleading and some of which are absolutely false. As an example, when those attorneys held press conferences to announce that the first round of DNA testing "completely exonerated" the players (a claim that, on its face, is rather preposterous), I saw not a single report that any reporter had actually seen the test results (none of them had), or had asked to see them and had that request denied (which is what happened to those who bothered to ask(. Now you are going over "documents" in that case. Where did you get them? What other documents did they not show you? But, of course, you cannot possibly know. Is anyone surprised that the defense attorneys are spinning this case in such a way that things do not look good for the prosecution? Their job, after all, is to create reasonable doubt, a task made all the easier by an uncritical national press corps desperate for any reasonable detail, regardless of veracity. Did not exactly the same thing happen with the Michael Peterson case in 2003? Do you recall how that one came out at trial?

Now, to get specific, what are you accusing me of saying in public "when the facts were known to be different?" None of the "facts" I know at this time, indeed none of the evidence I have seen from any source, has changed the opinion that I expressed initially. I have seen quite a bit of media speculation (and it is even worse on the blogs) that either starts from a faulty premise or builds to a demonstrably false conclusion. That is not my fault (although some of your colleagues have acted as if it were). The only people I have to persuade will be twelve sitting on the jury, and if you want to know how I am going to do that, you need to attend the trial. If, in the meantime, you and other "journalists" want to continue your speculations in the competition to come up with the most sellable story - and that seems to be everyone's bottom line - then please spare me the recriminations when you get things wrong, as you inevitably will.

Not that this will make the slightest bit of difference to you, but the real irony of this whole situation from my point of view is 1) that my initial cooperation with the press was based not on any perceived political advantage to be had, but on my (in retrospect, admittedly naive) belief that such cooperation would help effectuate a more accurate public discourse on an issue with great social resonance; 2)that my initial comments on the situation before there was a case against any identified defendant which would trigger the ethical rules resulting in my being accused of unethical behavior, and now my silence, which is mandated by those ethical rules, is apparently raising further speculation about the ethicality of my behaviour; and 3) the lesson I have learned from all of this is that I would probably be best served in the future by avoiding speaking to the press at all.

Mike Nifong
District Attorney
14th Prosecutorial District

Nifong Publicly Releases 'Angry' E-mail To Newsweek [wral.com, June 19, 2006]
Nifong press release & Newsweek/Nifong email correspondence [wral.com, June 19, 2006]
Nifong Fires Back At 'Newsweek' Story About Duke Investigation [video, WRAL, June 19, 2006]
Doubts About Duke [Newsweek, July 29, 2006 issue]

The email address shown for Mike Nifong, Michael.B.Nifong@NCAOCISD, does not work.

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