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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Duke Case — Nov. 1, 2007

Today's items - updated:

John Stevenson / Herald-Sun [reg. req.] :
Lawyers react to probe request -- A lawyer for one of three falsely accused ex-Duke lacrosse players has asked federal authorities to help investigate the inner workings of the infamous and now-ended sex-assault case, prompting mixed reactions from the Durham legal community.

Charlotte lawyer James P. Cooney III, representing the exonerated Reade Seligmann, suggested in an Oct. 9 letter [see below] that a federal probe could efficiently get to the bottom of the misguided lacrosse prosecution -- a prosecution that toppled the career of disbarred Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong.

"The Attorney General of North Carolina simply does not have the investigative tools that are at the command of the federal government, including the ability to convene an investigating grand jury," Cooney wrote.

He added that "participation by the Government of the United States in an investigation with North Carolina authorities is critical to any full, fair and open evaluation of the facts of this case."

The letter was addressed to acting U.S. Deputy Attorney General Craig S. Morford in Washington, D.C.; Christopher J. Christie, U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, where Seligmann's family lives; and Anna Mills Waggoner, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina in Greensboro. [...]

LieStoppers forum:
Durham Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, Something in the Durm Water!
John in Carolina:
In Time, The Feds Will Come To Durham
-- I think the Feds will come. They’ll be forced to.

The injustices committed during the Duke Hoax are too massive and too terrible to be ignored. We know only something of those injustices now.

We’ll learn much more about those injustices in the future.

A police-state frame-up attempt which was carried out over many months, involved dozens of co-conspirators and sought to put three innocent young men in prison for decades is a horrible thing to learn about. It makes decent people angry and concerned for their safety when in the hands of the law. [...]
LieStoppers blog:
John In Carolina -- One of the Bloggers that we read everyday is John In Carolina. His investigative reporting on the Duke Lacrosse Hoax case has been excellent. His articles on CrimeStoppers Cpl David Addison are of the quality that should be in the Washington Post. [...]
John in Carolina:
UPI AUTHOR AT DUKE FRIDAY -- Stuart Taylor, co-author with KC Johnson of the acclaimed Until Proven Innocent, will speak at Duke this Friday at 7 PM. The public is invited. Admission is free.

Until Proven Innocent is a riveting account of the attempted frame-up of the Duke lacrosse players by a rogue DA and others with the enablement of media, academics and "rights groups" the public had a right to expect would instead tell us the truth.

Taylor's 7 PM talk will be in Love Auditorium in the Love Science Research Building on West Campus. It will be preceded by a book signing at 6 PM [...]
LieStoppers forum:
Stuart Taylor at DUKE, tomorrow, FRI. Nov 2nd 7PM -- In place of a speech, Mr. Taylor has agreed to debate anyone disagreeing with his recent book. So far, none have accepted.

LieStoppers forum:
Taylor on PBS, about UPI -- Taylor is on PBS News at 6pm to 7pm [Nov 1st] EST
Last segment.

James CooneyPeter / Vanderbilt student / for Peter's sake blog:
James Cooney on the Duke Lacrosse Case -- James P. Cooney, III of the law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice spoke at Vanderbilt Law School today, and he gave a fascinating presentation about what has come to be known as the "Duke Lacrosse Rape Case." Mr. Cooney represented one of the three young men accused of raping an exotic dancer at the Lacrosse House. Vanderbilt Law School has many important speakers, but Mr. Cooney's remarks were excellent and so thought-provoking that I'm going to mention a few of my impressions after listening to him.

The first thing that struck me was the sheer, overwhelming volume of evidence contradicting the accuser's story. I've read many newspaper articles, blog posts, and book excerpts about the case, but it was a very different experience to have fact after fact presented that disproved the woman's story. The phone records alone made the alleged assault virtually impossible, and there was other evidence including ATM camera footage, credit card transactions, metadata from digital photographs, and reports by neighbors. Essentially, the Durham Police Department and the District Attorney had to try very hard to ignore that evidence. Even several months after the incident, when the accuser changed her story about when the attack happened, a similar series of phone calls and credit card transactions contradicted her account. Also compelling was the fact that DNA samples from 5 to 8 different men were found in and on the accuser's body, but the the three accused young men were ruled out with 100% accuracy. In fact, so was the entire lacrosse team. Mr. Cooney was an engaging public speaker [...]

The entire presentation was videotaped, and I hope Vanderbilt puts it up on its website as the sometimes do with important events. [...]
KC Johnson: Updates: Cooney at Vanderbilt, etc.
Wheeler Frost / guest commentary / Duke Chronicle:
History at Iowa was history at Duke for Mark Moyar -- The University of Iowa's history department and Duke's history department have a couple of things in common. Both have made national news because neither has a Republican faculty member. And both rejected the application of Mark Moyar, a highly qualified historian and a Republican, for a faculty appointment. [...]

In the Iowa history department there are 27 Democrats and zero Republicans. [...]

The Duke Conservative Union revealed in 2004 that the Duke history department had 32 registered Democrats and zero registered Republicans. John Thompson, the history department chair, blithely told The Chronicle in February 2004, "The interesting thing about the United States is that the political spectrum is very narrow," implying that political affiliation is relatively trivial. According to Michael Munger, a political science professor at Duke, Duke faculty remarked in a Duke-sponsored panel in 2004 that, "Asking history to hire a conservative is exactly like asking biology to hire a creationist." [...]
Matt Dees / News & Observer:
Mafia law an issue in Durham
-- Bell, challenger disagree on gangs -- A stiff federal racketeering law initially enacted to fight the Mafia could be used to lock up Durham gang members for long stretches, local law enforcement officials and Florida's attorney general all say.

But key questions persist about whether using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, in Durham would be too expensive or too difficult. [...]

n Durham, Stormy Ellis, an assistant district attorney who works almost exclusively prosecuting gang suspects, said she would welcome the ability to use RICO.

"I think RICO would possibly give us the ability to take larger chunks [of gang members] off the streets and take back the streets," she said.

For local district attorneys to be able to use the statute themselves, however, they would have to get express permission from the state legislature in the form of a new law.

Federal help - Federal prosecutors could jump in now.

"The U.S. Attorney's Office is not saying we can't do it," said Lopez, who met with federal prosecutors based in North Carolina shortly after taking the chief job in September. "If we do have a good candidate for a RICO case, they would be more than willing to work with us."

Ellis said she is doing research on how other states, including Florida, employ RICO now. She is particularly concerned, she said, that gang members often intimidate witnesses, making convictions difficult.

And many times, both Ellis and McCollum said, the crimes that can be proven against a gang member are so low-level they result in little or no prison time.

The threat of a RICO prosecution, Ellis said, could persuade soldier-level gang members to testify against leaders.

"Instead of just one guy at the time, we can take entire subsets of gangs off the street," she said.

Bell, though, says his conversations with local authorities suggest that RICO is more trouble than it's worth. [...]
comment: Why did Durham's leaders ever allowed Mike Nifong to take his eye off the gang problem and focus on prosecuting the Duke rape hoax.? One lone assistant DA, Stormy Ellis, still handles the massive gangland problem?
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education [FIRE]:
University of Delaware: Students Required to Undergo Ideological Reeducation -- case materials [...]
  • "University of Delaware Requires Students to Undergo Ideological Reeducation," FIRE Press Release, October 30, 2007: The University of Delaware subjects students in its residence halls to a shocking program of ideological reeducation that is referred to in the university’s own materials as a “treatment” for students’ incorrect attitudes and beliefs. The Orwellian program requires the approximately 7,000 students in Delaware’s residence halls to adopt highly specific university-approved views on issues ranging from politics to race, sexuality, sociology, moral philosophy, and environmentalism. FIRE is calling for the total dismantling of the program, which is a flagrant violation of students’ rights to freedom of conscience and freedom from compelled speech.
LieStoppers forum: Duke's bad? Try U. Delaware
Letter to Herald-Sun:

The lacrosse case put a lot of pressure on many of us. I happened to be the president of the Trinity Park Neighborhood Association (the house is in our neighborhood) at the time the case broke. It was a very difficult time for us.

There were pressures from many sides threatening to cause this situation to spiral out of control. It easily could have. Many of us worked very hard to keep the focus on the positive aspects of the neighborhood and Durham, the many positive contributions of Duke and most of its students to Durham, and to keep the lacrosse incident in the proper perspective.

Mayor Bill Bell was a key individual in this effort. I personally witnessed his calm demeanor on a cold night in front of the courthouse while we both were being interviewed on national television.

Is Bill Bell perfect? No, he's human like the rest of us. But I've seen him show a command of considerable calmness under the bright lights when we really needed it. I know he did a good job under a difficult situation. I also think he has done a pretty good job, in general, of keeping the City Council moving ahead. He has my vote.

John Dagenhart
KC Johnson:
With Friends Like These . . . --
the same John Dagenhart whose wife, Ellen, was a member of the potbangers' organization and then expressed skepticism about the possibility of a civil suit between the players and the city. [...]

Ray Gronberg / Herald-Sun
Brown wants four more years as in-house critic -- Eugene Brown has been the City Council's most vocal in-house critic over the past four years, and he's promising voters more of the same over the next four.

Brown, 63, is seeking re-election to his second term on the council. He ran second in last month's primary, behind fellow incumbent Diane Catotti and ahead of all the challengers on the ballot despite getting off to a late start on the campaign trail.

The real-estate agent and Trinity Park resident has been in the middle of some of city's loudest fights over governmental performance.

He ran four years ago as a critic of then-City Manager Marcia Conner and over the past year has made it clear he's not particularly satisfied with the work of Conner's successor, City Manager Patrick Baker.

Like incumbent Mayor Bill Bell, Brown has said Baker's honeymoon with the council is over. [...]
comment: Eugene Brown has been an outspoken critic of the Durham PD's handling of the lacrosse case.
Attorney James Cooney's letter, dated October 9, 2007
Craig S. Morford, Esq.
Acting Deputy Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
RFK Building, Room 411
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

Christoper J. Christie, Esq.
United States Attorney
District of New Jersey
970 Broad Street, Room 700
Newark, New Jersey 07202

Anna Mills Waggoner, Esq.
United States Attorney
Middle District of North Carolina
Post Office Box 1858
Greensboro, NC 27402

Dear Mr. Morford, Mr. Christie and Ms. Waggoner:

I represented Reade Seligmann and his family in connection with the false criminal charges filed against him in Durham, North Carolina. I continue to represent both him and his family in connection with issues that arose during this false prosecution, and specifically whether crimes were committed by various government officials during the conduct of that prosecution.

As Mr. Christie is aware, in early January 2007, I directed Reade and his father to make a report concerning the circumstances of this false prosecution to the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. At that time in the case, the central police report was found to have been prepared months after the events it purported to detail, was based on no contemporaneous notes of significance, and contained information that was flatly contradicted by other contemporaneous documents � leading to a potential conclusion that parts of this report had been fabricated. The Director of the private DNA Laboratory had admitted in open court that he had not reported on the results of all DNA testing based on an agreement with representatives of the State of North Carolina, and specifically the then-District Attorney of Durham County. The results that had not been reported contained plainly exculpatory information. Information that had effectively been concealed from the defense. The Lab Director further admitted that the failure to report these results was a violation of his own laboratory's protocols and testified that the then-District Attorney was well aware both of these results and of the fact that they were not reported. Further, and within a week of these admissions, an investigator for the then-District Attorney 're-interviewed' the false accuser. The story told by her at that time appeared to be nothing more than a complete fabrication designed to blunt Reade Seligmann's known alibi; yet, the then-District Attorney made it clear that he would continue to prosecute Reade based upon this new version, seeking to have him convicted of felonies that carried prison terms of decades.

Based on these developments, it was my opinion that the continuing prosecution against Reade Seligmann was not only false, but was being manipulated by officials under the color of North Carolina law for the purpose of obtaining a conviction regardless of the truth in the case. These acts, in my judgment, were potentially criminal. However, since the District Attorney is the chief law enforcement officer for Durham County. it was plain that the then-District Attorney would not investigate himself. It was also clear at that time that there was little that the Attorney General of North Carolina could do. Since his jurisdiction is extremely limited and since he has no power to convene an investigative grand jury under North Carolina law, I was concerned, further, that the United States Attorney in the Middle District of North-Carolina might face a potential ethical issue in any investigation into the events unfolding in Durham. That is, it appeared to me that the United States Attorney for the Middle District could have a conflict in conducting an investigation into law enforcement authorities and prosecuting authorities with whom she is required to work and conduct investigations on a regular basis. Because Reade and his family lived in New Jersey, and because many of these acts involved the use of interstate communications which had a direct effect in New Jersey, Reade and his father met with the United States Attorney for New Jersey about these concerns. To put it simply, the victims of these potential criminal acts were in New Jersey and it appeared that the federal authorities in New Jersey would be capable of conducting the full, fair and open investigation necessary without any concern of addressing potential conflict of interest issues.

In January, and for several weeks and months thereafter, Reade and his father met with Assistant United States Attorneys and provided the Motions, transcripts and other pleadings that were part of the public record. It is my clients' understanding that a meeting was scheduled between these assistants, representatives of the United States Attorney's Office in the Middle District of North Carolina, and members of the Attorney General's Office of North Carolina in early September. Apparently, after the federal prosecutors arrived in Raleigh, they were directed not to meet with members of the Attorney General's Office. Despite repeated inquiries by my clients, they are still unclear as to why these prosecutors � after having traveled to Raleigh � were denied permission to even meet with representatives of the Attorney General of North Carolina.

My clients and I are aware that, on the eve of the long-scheduled visit by these federal prosecutors to North Carolina, the interim District Attorney of Durham County made a referral request to the Attorney General. It is my clients' understanding that since the time of that referral and cancellation of the meeting between federal investigators and the Attorney General, the Attorney General's Office has transmitted a written request for federal involvement in a joint investigation into the events of this case. As you should be aware, there is a significant and recent history of State and Federal authorities joining- together to investigate allegations of official corruption in North Carolina. These include the investigation and eventual prosecution of former Speaker of the House Jim Black, the investigation and eventual prosecution of former Secretary of Agriculture Meg Scott Phipps, and a number of other investigations involving state legislators. The Attorney General of North Carolina simply does not have the investigative tools that are at the command of the federal government, including the ability to convene an investigating grand jury. Moreover, Congress has made actions such as those which appear to have taken place in this case a crime when committed by government officials under color of State law with the intent of depriving United States citizens of their liberty. In short, both from a substantive law standpoint, and based on the investigative tools at its disposal, participation by the Government of the United States in an investigation with North Carolina authorities is critical to any full, fair and open evaluation of the facts of this case.

On behalf of Reade Seligmann and his family, I respectfully request that the Government of the United States grant the request of the North Carolina Attorney General and participate in a joint investigation into the events of this prosecution. It may very well be that, at the end of such an investigation, both the Government of the United States and the Attorney General conclude that no crimes (other than those for which punishment has already occurred) have been committed. If so. then my clients will know that this determination was the result of a process that was full, fair and complete, that the investigators had the tools that they needed to search for the truth in these cases, and that the final decision was the result of objective prosecutorial analysis unencumbered by any ethical constraints.

I look forward to receiving your reply on this very important matter to my clients.

Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice
James P. Cooney, III
N&O: Jim Cooney's letter to federal officials. (PDF, 4 pages)

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