In March and early April 2006, Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong and the Durham Police Department were at war with a vast criminal conspiracy. The Duke men's lacrosse team was trying to cover up the fact that they had perpetrated a brutal gang rape and beating of an "exotic" dancer at a party on March 14th.
All 46 white members of the team were considered suspects. No one was talking. Nifong faced a "stone wall of silence." He said:
"My guess is that some of this stone wall of silence that we have seen may tend to crumble once charges begin to come out."
Nifong was also saying things like this about the conspiracy:
I would like to think that somebody who was not in the bathroom has the human decency to call up and say, "What am I doing covering up for a bunch of hooligans?" I'd like to be able to think that there were some people in that house that were not involved in this and were as horrified by it as the rest of us are.
Mike Nifong, needed a strategy to break down the "stone wall of silence" and round up the guilty conspirators. It was time to get tough - all is fair in war and Durham re-election politics. Nifong had to break the back of the conspiracy in order to show the voters he was a tough crime fighter and deserved to keep his job.
So what, if breaking the conspiracy required him to break a few rules and lie.
KC Johnson makes a compelling case that Nifong, Gottlieb, and Himan did in fact lie (yet again) when they submitted a probable cause affidavit to the court on March 27th. They lied when they said "Sgt. Gottlieb was contacted by a confidential source."
From Probable Cause Affidavit dated March 27, 2006, signed by Benjamin Himan, for the search warrant for Ryan McFadyen's dorm room:
On 3/7/2006 (sic) Sgt. Gottlieb was contacted by a confidential source. The source provided Sgt. Gottlieb a copy of an email sent by email address firstname.lastname@example.org. The email dated March 14, 2006 at 1:58am stated:
To whom it may concern
tomorrow night, after tonights show, ive decided to have some strippers over to edens 2c all are welcome.. however there will be no nudity. i plan on killing the bitches as soon as the walk in and proceeding to cut their skin off while cumming in my duke issue spandex.. all in beside arch and tack respond
The number 41 is the jersey number of Ryan McFadyen, a member of the Duke Lacrosse team.
The affiant requests that the State issue this search warrant to secure evidence related to the felonious assault and conspiracy thereafter the assault located at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd.
Notice again the fingerprints of Sgt. Mark Gottlieb on this. He is the one who was contacted by the confidential source. Sgt. Gottlieb keeps a lot of secrets under his hat doesn't he. Also note the use of the word "conspiracy" in the above affidavit.
This is a lie because, they in fact had actually obtained the email from one of the three laptop computers (two Dells & one Apple) of the Duke lacrosse captains that had been removed from their house on March 16th.
Why lie? Mr. Johnson says:
...the police lied about the source of the e-mail in their affidavit requesting a search warrant for McFadyen’s room, with the apparent purpose of leaving unchallenged false media portrayals of a 'wall of silence" by the players.There is another possible reason they said they had a confidential informant. That was to "plant the seed" that one of the lacrosse players was cooperating with the police. This is a ploy they tried to further exploit in April when they sent a fake e-mail using the email address of one player.
The Duke Chronicle reported on the "fake e-mail" ploy as follows:
the origin of a suspicious e-mail sent from one of the player's accounts and by defense lawyers preparing for District Attorney Mike Nifong to present his evidence to the Grand Jury as early as Monday.This is just one more dirty tactic they used to try and break the conspiracy.
The e-mail sent from a player's account, which read "sorry guys" in the subject line, contained a brief message:
"I am going to go to the police tomorrow to tell them everything that I know," it said.
Ekstrand said the player denied sending the message-he said he was in class when the time-stamped message went out.
Defense attorneys for the players have speculated that police are attempting to entrap the players.
The DPD has e-mail account information for some team members from earlier in the investigation
Additionally, why was the search warrant with this e-mail unsealed by Nifong on April 5th?
KC Johnson said:
So why, then, did Nifong approve making the e-mail public after McFadyen no longer was a suspect? And why did he do so in a context-free manner? Could he have hoped to inflame community sentiment against the lacrosse team, so as to encourage people to overlook the DNA results–or discourage them from looking too closely at the procedurally dubious manner through which he managed to obtained indictments before the May 2 primary?Nifong had not exhausted his DNA options when he released the McFadyen e-mail on April 5th. Police Investigator Michelle Soucie noted a conversation on April 4th in which she gave Nifong price quotes for DNA tests at a private lab. He would use the outside lab, DNA Security, Inc., for additional DNA testing until they filed a useless report on May 12th.
Nifong was in a no-holds barred war and he threw everything he could think of at the team in order to crack the conspiracy. He dropped this McFadyen e-mail into the boiling pot hoping it would raise the temperature even more so that he would get an informant.
On April 13th Nifong would try one last gambit to crack open the conspiracy. The Durham police entered a Duke dormitory and tried to interrogate a number of players without their attorney(s) present.
Durham Police Department officers gained access to an Edens Quadrangle residence hall without executing a search warrant late Thursday night and attempted to interview lacrosse players, defense attorney Robert Ekstrand said Sunday....Notice the behaviour of the Duke University Police Department (DUPD). They aided the Durham police in their raid on the dorm. Who do the DUPD really work for? Why didn't they require that the Durham Police have a search warrant? Do students have their civil rights suspended when they go to Duke or any university?
"They cornered a number of [players]," he said of the police. "One young man was interrogated in his room with the door closed, with his roommate having been excused by the police officers."
...When officers entered Edens Friday, DPD notified the Duke University Police Department before visiting the residence hall, said John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations.
He said a DUPD officer was dispatched to accompany the two DPD officers and that the Duke officer let the two uniformed officers into the dorm.
Ekstrand said the police officers gained access to the residence hall by catching the door after a female student swiped her DukeCard and entered the dorm.
Remember, it's not a university it's a hunting preserve for rapist conspirators.
There was no crime, no conspiracy, no informant, and no right for Nifong and the Durham police to wage war on the Duke lacrosse team like they did.
Mysteries of the McFadyen E-Mail [Durham-In-Wonderland, Sept. 12, 2006]
The DA and the documents [NewsObserver.com, June 15, 2006]
DA on the spot for comments [NewsObserver.com, April 22, 2006]
Application for Search Warrant - March 27, 2006 [smokinggun.com]
Inventory of Seized Property - March 16th [smokinggun.com]
Police enter Edens for interviews [DukeChronicle, April 17, 2006]
Duke Lacrosse Scandal: Mike Nifong the Liar [June 15, 2006, TJN]
As an aside, note how McFadyen referes to some of the other players on the team, when he writes:
"all in beside arch and tack respond"Teammates seldom use first names, everyone has a nick name. There were three players named Matt on the team and three Dan's, so of course, nicknames were used. The notion that the alleged victim, Ms. Mangum, would have heard players using first names like the ones she identified as her assailants (Matt, Bret, and Adam) is ridiculous. Ms. Mangum only heard the names of players who probably introduced themselves to her.
She also had a problem ID'ing the players she met face-to-face. That was discussed before, see: "Hit and Run Conscience"
Duke Lacrosse Case [TJN Archives]