Monday, April 09, 2007

This Day in Hoax History: April 9, 2006

April 9, 2006, marks the anniversary of Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong’s campaign speech at Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church. Buoyed by his newfound popularity in the black community resulting from his Hoax media blitz and advantaging himself of a newly forged political alliance, Defendant Nifong was introduced to the congregation by Durham attorney Mark Simeon, who Nifong had begun courting weeks before at an NAACP dinner. Simeon, perhaps best known for his failed campaign to oust Nifong’s mentor, Jim Hardin, described Nifong in his introduction as a “good prosecutor” and a “good man.”

Prior to the primary election, Newsweek described the Nifong/Simeon alliance as follows:
“Simeon has a relationship with prosecutor Nifong that may shed light on the D.A.'s handling of the case. Nifong was the protégé of Simeon's rival in the 2002 race for D.A. Simeon and Nifong did not get along, according to Simeon. But last year, Nifong's boss, Jim Hardin, was appointed to a judgeship, and Nifong was appointed to fill his place. Nifong's term is almost up, and in Durham, district attorney is an elected post. The voters go to the polls in one week, on May 2.

"One of Nifong's opponents is a lawyer named Freda Black, who was passed over for the D.A. job. Black is—or was, until the Duke case—better known around town than Nifong, largely because she won a conviction in a celebrated murder case. Nifong's other opponent is a lawyer with no prosecutorial experience named Keith Bishop. Nifong and Black are white; Bishop is African-American. Durham voters are about 40 percent black, so Nifong almost surely needs to win black votes to keep his job.

“Shortly after Nifong decided to run, he began reaching out to Simeon. He went to an NAACP banquet and crossed the room to extend his hand in peace to Simeon. On March 28—the day after Nifong first spoke out in the Duke case, publicly chastising the players for not coming forward to volunteer information about the alleged rape—Simeon told Nifong he would support him. He invited Nifong to speak at his church, Ebenezer Missionary Baptist, and introduced him to the African-American congregation as a man who had always been a "good prosecutor," but who, Simeon said he had recently learned, was also a "good man."
Coincidentally, or not, Mark Simeon had been retained by accidental outcry witness, Kim Roberts, a little more than a week prior to April 9. Within a week of Nifong’s speaking engagement at Simeon’s church, Roberts and Simeon would sit down with DA Nifong to request favorable bond treatment for Ms. Roberts. Nifong immediately complied with their request. In the spirit of mutual back scratching, Simeon would pitch Nifong’s candidacy to the influential Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and offer the candidate fashion advice.
“A week later Simeon asked Nifong to go to court to relieve Kim of the obligation of paying the bail-bond fees, arguing that she was no longer a "flight risk." Nifong agreed, as did the judge. Simeon told NEWSWEEK he went before the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, a very influential group, and urged them to vote for Nifong. Simeon says he has also been giving Nifong fashion advice, telling him to lose the plaid shirts and to start wearing black suits, light shirts and power ties. Women like power, Simeon says he told Nifong.”
While the political alliance benefitted Nifong’s candidacy, the Hoax was clearly an opportunity for Simeon as well.
“Lawyer Mark Simeon, best known in Durham for a failed run for district attorney in 2002, represents Kim Roberts, the second dancer hired for the party and an important witness in the case. He is required to seek justice for his client but also wants something less abstract.

“Before he ran for district attorney, Simeon said he had taken some big cases but did a lot of work in minor criminal matters and traffic tickets. After the election, his practice dwindled. In recent years, he said in an April interview, he has spent some work hours caring for his children.

“Roberts, charged with a probation violation after the rape allegations surfaced, knew Simeon because he had represented her on a traffic ticket. Simeon agreed to be her adviser and represent her in civil litigation stemming from the Duke case. He told Newsweek magazine that the case could be a route back to prominence.

“My mother's "proud of me on TV, but she'd like to see that translated into something tangible," Simeon told the magazine. "I've struggled since that last election." N&O
Simeon’s Hoax ambitions, however, were not merely limited to visions of representing Ms. Roberts in civil litigation. With dollar signs dancing in his head, Simeon courted Crystal Mangum and her family, while dreaming of a partnership with rainmaker Willie Gary.
"After almost daily appearances on national television, the family of the woman accusing three Duke lacrosse players of rape is being urged to take a lower profile.

"The family has turned to local lawyer Mark Simeon, who said he plans on cutting off the family's frequent statements to the media and appearances on national television.

"It's created problems," Simeon said. "They have been inadvertently hurting their daughter."

"Simeon has said that he would like to represent the accuser in any future civil litigation.

"In April, Simeon talked about putting together a trial team that would include Willie Gary, a lawyer from Florida who has won a number of multimillion dollar verdicts." N&O
Initially, Simeon’s client, Kim Roberts, told DPD Inv. Ben Himan that she believed the false accusations were a “crock.” But within hours of meeting with Nifong and receivng from him her favorable bond adjustment, Roberts suddenly changed her tune. With Simeon by her side, Roberts was interviewed by MSNBC’s Rita Cosby. Not only did she offer credibility to the false charges, Roberts also gave credence to the Hoax Hijackers' fictional date rape drug theory:
ROBERTS: “I think that if charges are filed, it won‘t be - I hate to use a legal word, but erroneous. It won‘t be an erroneous charge.”


ROBERTS: She was talkative and friendly and smiling, and definitely—we talked for several minutes, you know, normal conversation. We were getting to know each other. She was fine. She was absolutely fine.

COSBY: Did she seem that she had been on drugs or drinking?

ROBERTS: : Not at all. She did not seem like that at all.

COSBY: Are you surprised that they‘re saying that, Look, maybe she arrived, you know, banged up and bruised?

ROBERTS: Well, I mean, like I said, I just didn‘t notice anything. There was nothing overtly banged up or bruised about her, or I would have noticed it.

COSBY: How much of a contrast was her behavior from when she arrived to when she left?

ROBERTS: She was very different. She was different from the person that I met in the beginning of the night.

COSBY: A 180?

ROBERTS: Yes. At least.

COSBY: So you make the first 911 call. She has to be physically carried into the car by some of the young men. Is she speaking or saying anything, at this point?

ROBERTS: Not really. She was very out of it. She was—she was—there was almost no communication, period, and no communication could have occurred in her condition.

COSBY: Do you feel guilty?

ROBERTS: I don‘t want to feel guilty because, of course, I didn‘t know what was going on. She was going through that while I‘m, you know, so close, of course, you know, I feel something. Of course, I feel something. And then you also feel, you know, Why did it happen to her and not me?
In an interview with Newsweek, Simeon responded to the release of time-stamped party photographs that established the timeline excluding the possibility of an actual assault as detailed by the false accuser in any of her numerous versions of events. Simeon’s response would offer additional coverage for Nifong’s “They don’t know my” imaginary timeline - a flexible timeline that would change in September and again in December.
"She rejects the notion that she agrees with their timeline. I've shown their story line to my client, and she says there's a lot that's wrong with it. From the beginning, she has been cooperating fully with [Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong] and the police, and she looks forward to testifying truthfully at the trial."
Simeon’s shady participation in the Hoax appears fitting for the attorney whose professional, political, and personal “highlights” include at least one State Bar complaint, failure to pay federal payroll taxes, unpaid student loans, accusations of illegally entering previous District Attorney Hardin's office, a failed bid for vice president of the Durham NAACP, 55 unpaid parking tickets rationalized as a business expense, and more.
“Durham County Commissioner Joe Bowser, who has pledged to work for healing in a city often polarized by race, was elected president of the Durham NAACP on Sunday night. Bowser, 51, succeeds the outgoing Rev. Curtis Gatewood, whose firebrand politics alienated many whites in the community. A county commissioner since 1996, Bowser, a Democrat, said he wanted to bring more whites into the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He will get the chance. Two officer posts -- first vice president and secretary -- are open because the nominees, lawyer Mark Simeon and Carolina Times free-lance writer Milton Jordan, did not meet membership eligibility requirements, according to Ronald White, fourth vice president of the state NAACP

"Durham lawyer Mark Simeon said his 55 unpaid tickets are just a cost of doing business. Sometimes, he said, he must park his 1981 BMW illegally to be in court on time.

"I didn't think I had that many," Simeon said Tuesday. "I'll definitely take the amnesty and pay 'em up." -- The News & Observer, February 3, 2003

“Mark Simeon was surprised to see typewritten, unsigned notes taped above each of the fliers he posted in the Durham County Courthouse announcing a fund-raiser for his bid to unseat District Attorney Jim Hardin. He was even more surprised when he read the statement:

"Please help Mark retire all of his outstanding parking tickets, worthless checks and defaulted loans so that he can raise funds for his campaign with a shred of dignity."

"Simeon, who racked up 55 unpaid parking tickets before settling up in 1999 and who acknowledged owing $15,000 on a student loan, points to Hardin.

"I chose to leave it up as a glaring example of the kind of arrogance and disrespect that typifies that office," Simeon said. "While I don't know who put them up, the fact that they remained has got to mean it was with the permission and consent of the district attorney's office."

"Hardin disputes that.

"I think it's unfortunate that Mr. Simeon is so paranoid," Hardin said. "I certainly wouldn't authorize anyone to make a comment like that even if it's true." -- The News & Observer, August 10, 2002

“Mark Simeon, a defense lawyer who lost an election for Durham County district attorney last week, was fined $100 on Monday for contempt of court.

“In August, Simeon failed to appear in District Court on behalf of a client in a criminal case. District Court Judge Marcia Morey ordered Simeon to explain why he didn't show.

"Simeon, who was defeated last week by incumbent Jim Hardin, said he paid the $100 fine Monday. "I've settled the matter as far as I am concerned," he said.

“A complaint has been filed against Simeon with the N.C. State Bar about the matter.” -- The News & Observer, September 17, 2002

“A judge on Wednesday allowed Mark Simeon, a candidate for district attorney, to withdraw as the defense lawyer in a criminal case and extended the period for his former client to file an appeal.

“Superior Court Judge Ronald Stephens took the action after the state Court of Appeals ordered July 18 that the appeal of Tyrone Michael Brinkley be handled promptly. ‘

“In May, Simeon, who is challenging District Attorney Jim Hardin in the Democratic primary, missed a 35-day deadline to file essential documents for Brinkley's appeal. Brinkley was seeking to overturn his March 2001 conviction of assault with a deadly weapon, inflicting serious injury. He was sentenced to 34 to 50 months in prison.

"My practice has been strained of late, and I'm doing everything I can to keep everything going," Simeon told Stephens." -- The News & Observer, August 1, 2002

“Mark Simeon, a candidate for Durham district attorney, released a four-page statement Friday acknowledging that he has made several errors during his 14-year career, including failing to file a wage report and missing a filing deadline for a client in a civil suit.

"I've made mistakes and errors in judgment along the way -- sometimes taken on too many cases, too many clients who I thought I could help out (and did)," Simeon wrote. "This is intended to be, as lawyers say, a 'full disclosure' -- but I ask for 'leave to amend' (another lawyer phrase) if I've forgotten anything or don't know about it at this time."

"The typewritten letter came a day after published reports indicated that Simeon, 45, was more than $17,000 behind in payments on a college student loan, that he failed to file a wage report in 1997 and that he settled a lawsuit filed against him by former client Yvonne S. Wright. Wright's lawsuit in a civil case was dismissed because Simeon missed a filing deadline.

"Simeon's letter admitted wrongdoing in the Wright case and said he still owes $15,000 on the student loan. But Friday's letter went a step further, acknowledging that since the mid-1990s, he has been in "arrears on federal payroll taxes" and that he has failed to perfect an appeal in a "small number of criminal cases."

"Simeon said that he has been working with the Internal Revenue Service since 2000 to make regular payments on the balance due and that he is in good standings with his state taxes.” -- The News & Observer, March 9, 2002

"Lawyer Mark Simeon says he was only trying to help a client.

"But earlier this month, when he took a back door after hours into the District Attorney's Office, he became a client himself.

"District Attorney Jim Hardin has asked the sheriff to change the locks and the state Attorney General's Office to investigate what Simeon was doing there.

"Simeon, who has hired Durham lawyer Butch Williams to represent him, said he just needed to look at a case screening list that is kept on the front counter in the DA's Office.

"In retrospect, I see how that bothers you, and it will not happen again," Simeon said he told Hardin a few days later. "But my sole reason for being there was to look at that screening list."

"It all started Aug. 9 when Simeon, a 16-year Durham lawyer, entered the District Attorney's Office about 7 p.m. from a side door that connects to the grand jury room. The front door is locked at 5 p.m.

"Simeon encountered Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfried, and he said he asked permission to look at the case screening list.

"Dornfried said that he never gave Simeon permission to go in but that the two held a 15- to 20-minute conversation about a pending case.

"Hardin's first reaction was to let the matter drop. In an Aug. 14 letter to Durham Sheriff Worth Hill, Hardin called Simeon's actions "criminal" but requested that no action be taken against him. "I believe that I have appropriately dealt with the matter informally."

"But it's the discrepancy between the two stories, Hardin said, that caused him to refer the matter to the Attorney General's Office for further investigation. “ -- The News & Observer August 23, 2001

"It was too weird to be true -- a man charged with murder sitting beside a man running for the job of prosecuting him --and at a public forum about the county jail.

"It almost happened, until a late change in plan.

"Mark Simeon, a candidate for Durham district attorney who bailed out of the event, said he didn't know that Mike Peterson, accused of the Dec. 9 death of his wife, would be there.

"But Victoria Peterson, no relation, an organizer of the new Durham Coalition for Justice, put their pictures prominently on a flier distributed days earlier.

"At the time of my initial acceptance of Victoria Peterson's invitation, it was not clear to me that author Michael Peterson would be a participant in the discussion, or that he was a co-founder of DCJ," Simeon said in a statement. "This created an uncomfortable problem for me, to put it mildly." -- The News & Observer, April 27, 2002
In a crowded cast of colorful characters gracing the stage in Durham’s long running production of the Theatre of the Absurd, Mark Simeon fits quite nicely.


bill anderson said...

One person told me that it would be impossible to write this story as a work of fiction because one "could not invent the characters in it." It is hard to believe that there could be this many liars, miscreants, and outright criminals in one county -- and that is just on the "law enforcement" side of the street.

Simeon is just one more of those characters.

By the way, I am curious as to why Willie Gary took an exit, stage right. What did he know, and when did he know it?

kbp said...

Thanks Liestoppers

I'd be more curious why anyone stuck around after the test results became public knowledge!

Anonymous said...

Did someone open the doors to a french psychiatric ward? Durham has to have the strangest characters.

I finally figured it out, They're crazy!

Anonymous said...

Carolyn says:

Joan, I am staggered at the stuff you've uncovered on this site. This background on Simeon is just the latest. I never could have made sense of this case without your timelines, and I'm still blown away by that Duke mom's email you printed explaining Kim's suspicious '911' call (a cover for Kim stealing Crystal's $2000), etc. Joan, your research is awesome.

I work in a law office, and if one of our attorneys did the first rate work you've done, he'd be up for partner!