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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Duke/Nifong Hoax: Day #270 - State Takes Over Duke Case

NC Attorney General Roy Cooper held a 2:30 p.m. press conference to announce that his office would be taking over the Duke case.

Roy Cooper - NC Attorney GeneralFox News/AP:
North Carolina Attorney General Agrees to Mike Nifong's Request to Be Removed From Duke Lacrosse Case — North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that his office will grant Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong's request to be removed from the Duke lacrosse sex assault case. Nifong requested a special prosecutor be appointed to the case yesterday after coming under withering criticism over his handling of the case and multiple changes in the accuser's story.

Cooper pledged to carefully review all of the information involved in the case, cautioning that it may not be "resolved quickly"...


LieStoppers: News Conference Today
TalkLeft: Bulletin: NC Attorney General to have newser today...
KC Johnson: Reactions (see comments)
Court TV: Press Conference 1/13/07
FreeRepublic: 2:30 Press Conference Regarding Nifong's Request to be Excused from Duke Case
State Takes Over Duke Lacrosse Case (video of A.G. Roy Cooper Press Conference) — At a news conference, Cooper said that his office will review all the evidence in the highly controversial case and then decide whether the prosecution of Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans will proceed. He has appointed two attorneys within his office's Special Prosecution section to be in charge.

"Our goal is to respect justice and truth," Cooper said...

Cooper said Jim Coman, a former director of the State Bureau of Investigation and head of the attorney general's Special Prosecution Section, and Mary D. Winstead, a prosecutor in that division, would now oversee the case. Cooper cautioned that his office's taking over the case did not mean there would be a prosecution or a dismissal of the remaining charges.

“This is a review of all of the information and evidence that has been connected thus far. We will look to see if there are any things we need to reexamine,” Cooper told reporters. "There is a lot that is there already, and it is incumbent on us to review all that.” he said his staff would re-investigate the case and reinterview witnesses if they decide that is needed.

The case has been controversial and divisive in Durham and beyond, bringing accusations that race and class have played roles.

“We are going into this with our eyes wide open as to the evidence, but with blinders on to all other distractions,” Cooper said...
The days as of Jan 13, 2007:
It has been 306 days days since the Duke men's lacrosse team had a party where they hired two strippers to perform. The party started on March 13th, 2006, while the players were on spring break. Crystal Gail Mangum made her first accusations of rape, kidnapping, robbery, and sexual assault on March 14th.

It has been 296 days since 46 members of the Duke lacrosse team went to the Durham police crime lab , on March 23rd, to submit DNA samples and have their pictures taken for an improper identification process.

It has been 270 days since Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty were wrongly arrested on April 18th, 2006.

It has been 243 days since David Evans was wrongly arrested on May 15, 2006, the day after he graduated from Duke University.

It has been 148 days since the lacrosse case was officially designated as "exceptional," on August 18th. Superior Court Judge Osmond Smith was assigned to oversee what some predict might be the longest criminal proceeding in Durham history.

It has been 67 days since Mike Nifong was elected to a four-year term as district attorney, on November 7th. He defeated write-in candidate, Steve Monks, and Lewis Cheek who did not actively campaign.

It has been 37 days since Congressman Walter B. Jones (R-NC) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales requesting an inquiry into Durham County, North Carolina District Attorney Mike Nifong’s prosecution of three Duke University student accused of an alleged sexual attack. The letter was sent on December 7, 2006 and Rep. Jones made his announcement regarding the letter on Dec. 12th.

It has been 22 days since Mike Nifong dropped the rape charges against the David Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Seligmann on Dec. 22nd.

It has been 16 days since the North Carolina State Bar Association filed an ethics complaint against Mike Nifong, on December 28, 2006.

It has been 15 days since the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys (NCCDA) issued a statement that called for Nifong to recuse himself from the Duke lacrosse case, on December 29, 2006.

It has been 11 days since Mike Nifong was sworn in at a private ceremony for a four year term as Durham District Attorney, on Jan 2, 2007.

It has been 1 day since Mike Nifong asked the state attorney general to take over prosecution of the sexual offense and kidnapping case against the three Duke lacrosse players.

There are 11 days until a preliminary North Carolina Bar hearing on Mike Nifong's violation of ethics rules. The hearing is set for January 24th at the Bar offices in Raleigh.

There are 23 days until the next scheduled court hearing on the Duke case, currently set for February 5th.
Reaction to AG Cooper's announcement:

Hijacker of the Hoax Replaced By Gell Prosecutor and Former Co-worker — In a case that needs no additional irony, the prosecutor who decided to retry Alan Gell, despite evidence of his actual innocence and prosecutorial misconduct in withholding that evidence, will now replace Defendant Nifong as prosecutor of the Hoax...

If the hoax proceeds to trial, it will not be Coman's first attempt at placing innocent men behind bars. In 2003, despite the revelation that prosecutors David Hoke and Debra Graves withheld evidence that exonerated Alan Gell of murder charges that had sent him to death row, Coman decided to put Mr. Gell on trial for a second time. Later Coman would testify at the State Bar trial of Hoke and Graves to the effect that withholding evidence was standard policy in the Attorney General's office...

Today's items:
[prior to Roy Cooper's press conference]

Editorial - NY Daily News:
Drop the Duke charges now — Court proceedings in the Duke University rape-that-was-not-a-rape matter are scheduled to resume next month, but that is far too long to wait for the dismissal of all charges against the three accused lacrosse players...From the start - until yesterday, when he asked to step down and be replaced by a special prosecutor - he placed politics over justice, using the accusations, leveled by a black woman against three white men, in a successful and racially destructive reelection campaign...

This miscarriage of justice must stop. We're sure the special prosecutor will agree.

Duff Wilson & David Barstow, NY Times:
Prosecutor Asks to Exit Duke Case — Mr. Nifong’s friends told him he had two choices: dismiss the case or ask the attorney general to take it over. It was a bitter decision, friends said. His reputation hung in the balance. Mr. Nifong decided he had to do something he had left to his investigators over the 10 months since the alleged assault: talk about it directly with the woman he called “my victim.”

In a two-hour meeting at his office on Thursday, Mr. Nifong and an aide talked about the choices, an official involved in the case said. He told the accuser that a trial would be brutal, but that he had already talked with the attorney general’s special prosecutions unit and trusted that office to give the case a fair review. He asked what she wanted to do.

She was concerned about the effect of the case on Mr. Nifong’s career, the official recalled. She wanted to sleep on the decision. She continued to insist she had been sexually assaulted.

On Friday, she and Mr. Nifong spoke by telephone. She again said she wanted to go forward. Although she was not happy about Mr. Nifong’s giving up of the case, the official said, she said she understood his reasoning and pledged to cooperate with any new team...
LieStoppers forum: New York Times 1/13, AV wants convictions; regrets Nifong off
TalkLeft: Accuser told Nifong She Wants Case to Continue

related: KC Johnson - The Path from Here — According to the Times, several district attorneys met with Nifong on December 19 and urged him to recuse himself from the case, leaving him "stunned and subdued," according to friends. The concern of his colleagues? That state legislators were looking at this case of an example of why the power of prosecutors needed to be regulated more closely...
David Zucchino, LA Times:
D.A. in Duke case gives up the fight — Under an ethics cloud, he withdraws from the racially charged drama. - Police officers and district attorney investigators who handled the case will be removed if a special prosecutor is appointed, Coleman said. The prosecutor would rely on staff investigators and those from the State Bureau of Investigation.

"Given the state of the case, he would basically have to start over," Coleman said. "He'd do what Nifong should have done. He would determine whether there is any credible basis to believe a crime occurred."

A hearing scheduled for Feb. 5 will almost certainly be postponed, said Cooney, Seligmann's lawyer. On Thursday, the defense served a subpoena to the accuser as she met with Nifong in his office, he said. She would have been called to testify at the hearing.

Sarah Kwak
Duke Students on Nifong: "It's About Time" — The students at Duke University were still adjusting to life back on campus after the winter break but that didn't stop them from spreading the news on Friday afternoon: Durham County D.A. Mike Nifong had just asked the North Carolina Attorney General's office to remove him from the case against three members of the school's lacrosse team. The information went out via instant messages, phone texts, email and old-fashioned word of mouth...Nifong, who is seen by most students as equal parts villain and punchline, has long been the object of widespread criticism...

Peter Whoriskey and Sylvia Adcock, Washington Post:
Prosecutor Seeks to Bow Out of Duke Case — [Nifong's] decision to recuse himself was welcomed by the defense team representing the three Duke lacrosse players initially accused of raping a 28-year-old stripper at a team party.

"We feel very good about this. It's a fresh set of eyes looking at the case," said William Cotter of Raleigh, one of three attorneys for Collin Finnerty of Garden City, N.Y. "We think it's more likely that they will listen to us and we will certainly be cooperative with him or her"...one of the lead defense attorneys in the case, Joseph B. Cheshire said he is "very confident" that a new prosecutor in the case would drop the charges after a review of the evidence.

"We are extremely pleased to be rid of him," Cheshire said of Nifong. "The word of the accuser changes every time she opens her mouth. Anybody who takes an objective look at this case will dismiss it."

News & Observer:
Nifong steps asideIt could be weeks before a decision is made on whether to proceed with the case... David Freedman, the Winston-Salem lawyer representing Nifong, said the request did not come easily.

"He deeply regrets having to get out of this case," Freedman said. "He felt his presence would only take away from the story the prosecuting witness has to tell."

If Cooper accepts, it could be weeks before his office decides whether to proceed or drop charges against David Evans, 23, Collin Finnerty, 20, and Reade Seligmann, 20...

Anne Blythe, News & Observer:
DA's lawyer was also his critic - Attorney says he regrets comments he made about Nifong on national TV - David Freedman of Winston-Salem, one of a handful of lawyers in North Carolina with a sizable practice defending lawyers battling State Bar complaints, said Friday that he regretted comments he made on MSNBC's "The Abrams Report" in April. "My opinion was just based on media reports," Freedman said. "As an experienced trial lawyer, I should know better than to base my comments just on what I read." Freedman said Nifong contacted him recently after the Bar charged Nifong with violating ethics rules during interviews early in the case. A preliminary hearing is set for Jan. 24.

During an April 19 segment of "The Abrams Report," Freedman, a criminal defense lawyer, had this to say:

"Everything has been mishandled from the start. You had a district attorney coming out and making potentially unethical statements, saying he believed a crime occurred, which he should not do. He should not be commenting on the evidence. He took an adversarial position from the start."

On Friday, Freedman said he had seen documents and reviewed many materials that gave him a different view. Nifong said Friday that he was not worried about Freedman's early comments.
MSNBC: 'The Abrams Report' for April 19 [transcript]
Michael Biesecker and Jane Stancill, News & Observer:
Act prompts expressions of relief — Many who urged Mike Nifong to find a way out of the Duke lacrosse case said Friday that his request to be relieved was best for all involved, including the embattled prosecutor himself.

"The case was becoming about Mr. Nifong instead of the merits of the case," said Garry Frank, the district attorney in Davidson County and president of the state's Conference of District Attorneys. "It's in the interest of justice that the case be evaluated and go forward or not go forward based on its merits, not on public opinion about the prosecutor."

Aaron Beard/AP, NY Daily News:
May I be recused? Nifong wants off Duke lacrosse case — Facing ethics charges that could lead to his disbarment, the embattled district attorney in the Duke lacrosse sexual assault case has asked the state attorney general's office to appoint a special prosecutor to take over the case...

DA in Duke case asks to be removed (1/12/07) — The embattled district attorney in the Duke lacrosse sexual assault case has asked the state attorney general's office to appoint a special prosecutor to take over the case...innerty's father, Kevin, was elated by Nifong's decision to step down from the case.

"We're very pleased that the attorney general's office is taking over this case," he said Friday night, "and we will welcome a new set of objective eyes on the evidence in this case."

Nifong's attorney said last night that his client still believed in the case and that he was disappointed he would not take it to trial...

Rep. Carolyn McCarthyAdding to the firestorm, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy joined the call for a federal probe into whether Nifong violated the civil rights of the three players.

In a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, McCarthy said she was "very concerned" Nifong may have "violated several federal criminal statutes in his vigorous prosecution of" the players, who also include David Evans, 23, of Bethesda, Md., and Reade Seligmann, 20, of Essex Fells, N.J. McCarthy (D-Mineola) sent the letter this week after meeting with Finnerty and his family at the family's request. The family lives in her district.

McCarthy later met separately with Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.), who had written to Gonzales in December requesting an investigation. "We're not saying definitively that his civil rights were violated, but we support the initiative taken by Congressman Jones asking the attorney general to look into it," McCarthy spokesman George Burke said Friday. Burke said it was the overall handling of the case by Nifong that had sparked her request. Previously, Nifong has said he regretted some of his public statements about the case.
KC Johnson: Bipartisan Calls for Federal Inquiry
Cy Gurney & Mike NifongJohn Stevenson, Herald-Sun:
Nifong Asks Off Case — Nifong met with the accuser in the case for the first time Thursday. On Friday, he wouldn't comment about that, or his request to recuse himself. His wife, Cy Gurney, said he had not mentioned his request to her...

Raleigh lawyer Joe Cheshire, representing defendant David Evans, predicted that a new and objective prosecutor might even decide the lacrosse case is not worth pursuing. The New York Times reported Friday that Nifong's request indicates the accuser still wants to pursue the case.

"We could not have had a less objective prosecutor [than Nifong]," Cheshire said. "We believe that when someone without an agenda and who is honest looks at this case, these boys will be exonerated."...

KC Johnson:
Dissension among the Troika - Over the last few months, as ally after ally abandoned Mike Nifong, his sole remaining advisors became the Troika: wife Cy Gurney, “investigator” Linwood Wilson, and “activist” Victoria Peterson. These three appear to have come up with the idea to send Wilson to “interrogate” the accuser on December 21. Wilson's “report” set into motion the chain of events culminating in yesterday’s recusal...

Professor John F. Banzhaf III, Friends of Duke University:
Duke Case Prosecutor Forced to Step Down — Civil Liability, Bar Complaint, and Case Disintegration Too Much for Him - "Although prosecutors generally enjoy absolute immunity from civil liability for prosecutorial misconduct, there are instances -- and this appears to be one of them -- where that immunity doesn't apply," says Banzhaf...Banzhaf also noted that the accuser could be sued for defamation, malicious prosecution, and probably other torts if she wrongfully accused the students.

William L. Anderson:
Michael Nifong’s Spaghetti Factory — Prosecutors in the United States – both state and federal prosecutors – have a saying about filing of questionable charges: "Charges are like spaghetti; throw them against the wall and see what sticks."...As the Duke non-rape, non-kidnapping, and non-sexual assault case continues to contaminate the North Carolina court system – a major accomplishment, given the rottenness of that system – prosecutor Michael B. Nifong has decided to throw his own bowl of spaghetti against the courtroom wall, hoping that Judge W. Osmond Smith III will like what he sees.

Michael Gaynor:
Is Ms. Mangum rewriting her story herself? — Investigator Linwood Wilson's report on his December 21, 2006 with false accuser Crystal Gail Mangum is fascinating The day after the interview, the "white Knight" championing knavery in the name of atoning for the evils of slavery, Durham County, North Carolina District Attorney Michael D. Nifong, dismissed the rape charges...

Cash Michaels, Wilmington Journal:
Duke Three Bloggers Attack Accuers's Baby (1/11/07) — The president of Duke University publicly acknowledges that African-American faculty at the school were among those who “have been widely attacked in blogs and emails - and in some cases personally attacked in highly repugnant and vicious terms …” in the Duke alleged sexual assault and kidnapping case.

However Duke Pres. Richard Brodhead’s concern about what he also called “destructive assaults” on faculty and students, could not have anticipated the intensity of racial hatred directed not only towards the alleged victim of the assault by some supporters of the three white Duke defendants indicted, but astonishingly, towards her newborn baby as well...

The vile attacks on the infant, only a week old, posted online on the message board by purported Duke Three supporters, were so bad, that the administrator, after several complaints, was forced to take them all off...
comment: This trash is *not* even remotely connected to journalism anymore.

discussion: TalkLeft - You're all guilty - Cash's latest.

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