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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Duke Case: Cabbie escapes Nifongery

Moezeldin Elmostafa (center)So the Durham cab driver who has surfaced as an alibi witness in the Duke lacrosse rape hoax today was found not guilty of a 3-year-old shoplifting charge. That's the good news.

Moezeldin Elmostafa, 37, aka Moez Mostafa, has provided an alibi for Reade Seligmann, one of three Duke lacrosse players indicted in the rape case. Mr. Elmostafa gave Seligmann and his friend Robert Wellington a ride shortly after the two strippers stopped performing at the Duke lacrosse party.

The defense lawyers in the lacrosse case have said Mr. Elmostafa was charged because he is a favorable witness for Seligmann. We'll get to this ugly witness intimidation in a second.

After Mike Nifong and the Durham Police learned of Elmostafa's potential role as an alibi witness in the rape case, they found an unserved warrant naming him in a 2003 shoplifting case at a Hecht’s department store at Northgate Mall in Durham.

Elmostafa was then charged in May with aiding and abetting misdemeanor larceny in the 2003 shoplifting case. He was accused of helping a lady steal five purses worth about $250 from a Durham department store, according to court documents.

A security officer for the store testified today in district court that he saw a woman steal five handbags worth about $250 from the store and then jump into Elmostafa’s cab, which sped away.

The security officer also testified that the cab pulled away even before the woman had closed to the door. A store surveillance tape, played in court, appeared to show that the door closed first.

Elmostafa denied the charge and said he helped store security locate the woman after he picked her up from the store and drove her home. The woman later pleaded guilty to larceny.

Elmostafa's lawyer, Tom Loflin put one of the lacrosse investigators on the witness stand and produced typed notes from the lacrosse case that showed District Attorney Mike Nifong wanted to be informed when Elmostafa was arrested.

Assistant District Attorney Ashley Cannon told the judge the shoplifting case has nothing to do with the rape case.

Also note the above photo from the News & Observer. It shows Mr. Elmostafa (center) as he listens to testimony during his bench trial in District Court today as Durham police investigators Benjamin Himan (at left) and Richard Clayton look on. Why were two lacrosse investigators at the trial when only one reportedly testified? Is it just the photo angle or do these two cops actually appear to be breathing on Mr. Elmostafa?

Mike Nifong took a personal interest in Mr. Elmostafa and this minor 2003 larceny incident. The case was taken all the way to trial even with a video showing Mr. Elmostafa was just doing his cab driver job. It is clear that justice is being twisted into something ugly in Durham by Mike Nifong and the Durham PD.

Cab driver in lacrosse case acquitted [NewsObserver.com, Aug. 29, 2006]
Duke Lacrosse Witness Acquitted On 2003 Shoplifting Charge [wral.com, Aug. 29, 2006]