Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Linwood Wilson – A Comedy

In an article that appears to foreshadow impending challenges to the integrity and competence of Defendant Nifong’s hulking henchman, Linwood Wilson, the News & Observer’s Joseph Neff and Michael Biesecker reveal that the Hoax is not the first instance of questionable conduct on the part of the bad check collector turned District Attorney’s Chief Investigator.
“With the North Carolina attorney general reviewing the Duke lacrosse case, the new prosecutors must weigh evidence gathered by Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong's chief investigator, whose private detective career was marked by ethics complaints.

“Nifong hired Linwood E. Wilson, a gospel singer with limited experience working criminal cases, less than four months before the March 13 lacrosse team party at which an escort service dancer said she was raped, beaten and robbed.

“Wilson, 58, is the only full-time investigator on Nifong's staff. Twenty years ago he was investigated on suspicion of making false statements on the witness stand and setting up an illegal telephone tap, according to his file at the state agency that licenses private investigators.

“Wilson was never charged with a crime, and he says he acted appropriately. Still, his credibility is likely to be attacked by attorneys for the three accused players, who face charges of kidnapping and sexual offense.”
The Associated Press adds that despite Linwood Wilson’s assertion that his integrity has never been challenged, he has been formally investigated five times by the N.C. Private Protective Service Board.
“My integrity stands for itself. I've never had anybody question my integrity," Wilson said.

“Wilson was a private investigator from 1982 to 1998. He did occasional work for criminal defense attorneys but focused his work on divorce and child custody cases.

"Wilson was a public safety officer for Durham during the 1970s, working with both the police and fire departments. He was assigned to the patrol and vice divisions but never served as a full-time investigator, according to records.

”According to his file at the N.C. Private Protective Service Board, complaints about Wilson's conduct resulted in five formal inquiries.

"In 1984, the board looked at allegations that Wilson had put in an illegal wiretap on the telephone of a Durham woman for her estranged husband. Wilson denies the allegation and said a telephone technician set up the tap for the woman's husband.

"Two years later, the board reviewed a complaint that accused Wilson of lying on the witness stand and in an investigative report in a divorce case. But another investigator concluded that it would be nearly impossible to prove perjury and there was no record of action in his file.”
Throughout the Hoax, Wilson has interjected himself into the drama, usually with negative consequences opposite what he likely intended. The most comical interlude of Wilson’s is surely his bumbling attempt to hijack a Joe Cheshire press statement. Immediately following the June Hoax hearing, Cheshire spoke briefly to the press, discussing the latest batch of discovery, which revealed additional contradictions in the accuser’s fable. Unwisely, Wilson interrupted Cheshire in mid-sentence, publicly challenging the assertion that the accuser had changed her story.
"We've got none, we've got three, we've got five, we've got 20. I mean, pick a number -- any number you want to pick," Cheshire told reporters outside the courtroom.

"She's told so many different stories I'm not sure how many there are."

“An investigator in Nifong's office called into question Cheshire's claims Thursday.

“When Cheshire told reporters that the woman claimed five people attacked her, investigator Linwood Wilson asked Cheshire to show him that page in the evidence.

"You're welcome to come get it," Cheshire said.

"Yeah, I'd love to see it," Wilson said.

“Wilson walked away, and Cheshire continued talking with reporters” N&O

"Mr. Cheshire's news conference was briefly interrupted by Linwood Wilson, an investigator for the district attorney, who challenged him to show where in the documents the woman had changed her story. In an interview later, Mr. Wilson said he had seen all the evidence and that the woman, a 27-year-old student and stripper, had not changed her story." NYT
Mr. Wilson’s precipitous challenge of Cheshire's mention of the accuser changing the number of her alleged attackers resulted in a public spanking the next day. The defense attorney documented in a scathing letter, with statements from the prosecution's own files, his assertions from the day before to Mr. Wilson and the media.

"Since you are the District Attorney's Investigator, the press could have assumed -- falsely, as it turns out -- that you had actually read your file," Cheshire wrote in his letter to Wilson. "I can only assume your motivation in questioning my assertion was simply ignorance. A simple reading of your file might solve that problem in the future."

Ironically, it is Linwood Wilson’s one and only, nine months delayed interview with the accuser, which resulted in wholesale revisions to the original invented accusations, that now places the stumbling investigator in the hot seat and his boss at the mercy of the State Bar.
“At issue is a Dec. 21 interview with Wilson in which the accuser reportedly changed her story of who assaulted her, how and when -- contradicting all her previous statements, records of calls to her cell phone, 911 records and time-stamped photos from the party.

“The woman said she could no longer testify that she was raped, forcing Nifong to drop that charge against the defendants.

“Wilson's handwritten notes and a typed report are the only accounts of his one-on-one interview with the woman in December.

“Defense lawyers have called the new story an implausible "do-over" that attempts to fill holes in the prosecution case.”
Linwood Wilson’s first appearance in the Durham County Theater of the Absurd production of “The Hoax,” involved his role in the persecution of defense witness Moezeldin Elmostafa, the taxi driver whose help in providing substantiation of Reade Seligmann’s alibi was rewarded with arrest and prosecution, as directed by Defendant Nifong.
“Linwood Wilson, an investigator in Nifong's office, said Monday that he discovered the warrant when he ran a routine criminal background check on Elmostafa, the type of check he does for all victims and witnesses the prosecutor's office handles. Wilson said he told Nifong about the warrant, and Nifong told him that the office policy was to serve it.

“Wilson said he told two detectives working the lacrosse case about the warrant, and Investigator R.D. Clayton arrested Elmostafa on May 10. He was released from the Durham County jail on $700 bail. According to notes taken by Investigator Benjamin Himan, Wilson said that Nifong wanted to be told when the taxi driver was arrested.

“The prosecutor's office or police collected evidence on Elmostafa that included his insurance and driving history, several years' worth of drug tests -- all of which were negative -- and a criminal record check.” N&O
Mr. Elmostafa was quickly acquitted at a brief trial last August, despite Investigator Wilson’s efforts to support the prosecution by contradicting Inv. Ben Himan’s account of the circumstances surrounding the arrest of the good Samaritan.
“Elmostafa, known in the blogosphere as Elmo, was originally charged with misdemeanor larceny, but the district attorney's office dodged the statute of limitations and changed it.

“Before the trial, word was that the "aided and abetted" shoplifter in the case would testify against Elmo. Also, the authorities had a security tape proving Elmo's involvement.

“Let's just say that neither one panned out.

“The shoplifter never testified. And the tape? Well, that was like going live with Geraldo Rivera when he opened Al Capone's vault: There was nothing there.

“Instead of showing a cab speeding away from the scene of a crime, the tape showed the shoplifter hiding her bags behind her hip, then getting in the backseat and closing the door. Then the cab pulled away from the curb.

“Elmo's greatest crime? Failing to come to a complete stop in a near-empty mall parking lot.

“Elmo's lawyer noted that it took nearly three years (and a role in the lacrosse mess) for the authorities to pursue his client -- even though Elmostafa continued to be employed by the same cab company until last year, and remains a part-owner of that cab company to this day.

“The assistant D.A. said Elmo couldn't be found because his first name had been misspelled.

“Uh, right.

“A few weeks ago, I used speculation about Elmo's treatment (he's being harassed! his reputation tarnished!) to poke a little fun at the bloggers in the black-helicopter-infested skies of cyberspace.

“But darn if this isn't another case where the bloggers, with all their paranoid conspiracy theories, just might be right, however hysterical their tone.

“How else to explain the fact that District Attorney Mike Nifong was following this misdemeanor case so closely he asked to be informed when Elmo got picked up?” Sheehan,N&O

"It has nothing to do with putting any kind of pressure on him," Wilson said after the verdict.

“The trial, which took up the better part of Tuesday, was infused with the lacrosse controversy. Tom Loflin, Elmostafa's lawyer, filed motions seeking to have the case thrown out, accusing Nifong of trying to get Elmostafa to change his story. And all day long, two investigators on the lacrosse case, Benjamin Himan and R.D. Clayton, sat in the courtroom.

"Why are they here? Supposedly they know zero about Hecht's, so why are they here?" Loflin said after the trial.

“Wilson said he asked the investigators to be in the courtroom since Loflin's motions mentioned them, and Loflin briefly put Himan on the stand to ask about typed notes turned over to defense lawyers in the lacrosse case. Himan's notes state that "Mr. Nifong wanted to know when we picked [Elmostafa] up."

“Wilson said the request came from him, not Nifong.” N&O

Following ‘60 Minutes’ first expose on the Hoax, Linwood Wilson scrambled to protect Nifong’s backside by attempting to debunk the videotape showing the accuser energetically pole-dancing around the time she was prescription shopping by feigning extreme pain for the make believe assault. In a vain attempt to accomplish the Nifong tuckus save, Wilson obtained an affidavit from Platinum Club owner Victor Olatoye disputing the ’60 Minutes’ video. Within one day of signing his affidavit, however, Mr. Olatoye contacted Wilson to rescind his statement. Despite Mr. Olatoye’s claim to have attempted to retract his affidavit, Wilson proceeded to leak the disavowed affidavit to the local media as if it was never challenged by its author.

"But Platinum Club owner Victor Olatoye said in a sworn affidavit, a copy of which was obtained by The Herald-Sun on Wednesday, that the bouncer's account was not true. He said the woman danced at his nightspot beginning in December 2005 and continued for about three months, stopping in February. In addition, he said he had reviewed the CBS video clip and disagreed that it was shot on March 26. "The video is at my club and was prior to the rape," Olatoye wrote. "I am certain of this because [the accuser] has not stripped at my club since the rape occurred." H/S

Victor O. Olatoye, owner of the Platinum Club in Hillsborough, N.C., where the woman worked, had signed an affidavit for the Durham district attorney saying she had not performed at his club since February, and that the video had to have been taken before March 13. But in the interview Thursday, Mr. Olatoye, 44, said that after filing his affidavit on Oct. 18 he found records showing that the woman had worked on March 23, March 24 and March 25. Mr. Olatoye also said he recognized her dancing on the video, even though her face was obscured.

“I saw the clip and I believe that was her, yes,” he said, adding that she has not worked at the club since March 25. Mr. Olatoye said that a day after he had signed the affidavit he told the district attorney’s office that he needed to change it. But an investigator for the office, Linwood Wilson, said Mr. Olatoye never told him about the new information, and added that he was now expected to file a new affidavit on Friday." NYT

Perhaps the most bizarre story of Linwood Wilson’s questionable conduct producing results opposite of what he intended predates the Hoax by several years. Hired as a private investigator by the family of a murder victim, Wilson testified at the trial of the victim’s killer, Brian Laws, an apparent homophobe who claimed self defense (he claimed to have feared his victim’s sexual orientation). While it might be expected that having been hired by the victim’s family would indicate Wilson had testified for the prosecution, he instead served as a witness for the convicted murderer, attempting to lend credence to the self defense claim by providing rumors that co-workers thought the victim was a homosexual, because they rarely saw him in the company of women.

“During the defendant's presentation of evidence, defendant attempted to offer the testimony of Linwood Wilson, a private investigator, to show "the general reputation of the victim in terms of his sexual persuasion."

The State (Nifong was the prosecutor) objected to the testimony, arguing that it was inadmissible under Rule 404(a)(2) of the North Carolina Rules of Evidence unless it went to the victim's reputation for violence. The trial court agreed with the State but allowed the defendant to make an offer of proof. Wilson testified that in the course of his investigation, he, personally, did not form an opinion as to the victim's sexual orientation. Wilson did, however, testify that several of the victim's acquaintances assumed he was a homosexual because "he was not seen with very many females" and "he always seemed to be with males." State v. Laws

While it is uncertain whether the Comedy of Errors that appears to define Linwood Wilson’s participation in the Hoax can be explained by incompetence, absence of integrity, or both, we do look forward to someone taking up his challenge to “bring it on.”


Anonymous said...

dumb and dumberer

Anonymous said...

Is the DA ultimatly responcible for supervising Linwood's activities?