Thursday, May 31, 2007

Coincidental or Circumstantial?

Awakening from its Hoax-long hibernation, the Snooze Room confirms some of the meticulous choreography assumed to have preceded the April 4, 2006, made-for-video lineup that led directly to the indictment of the Duke Innocents. Undermining the recent deceptive efforts of City Manager Patrick Baker and Chief of Police Steve Chalmers to disguise the real purpose of the contrived lineups, the Herald Sun’s Ray Gronberg reveals that Sgt. Mark Gottlieb described not only the elaborate staging of the Hoax enabling lineup in his case notes, but also the devious intention which motivated the contrived identifications that Baker and Chalmers have taken great pains to reinvent as accidental.

Detectives conducted the key photo session with the accuser in the Duke lacrosse case with an eye firmly on how it would play in court, according to one description, despite recent assertions by city officials that they weren't expecting her to identify suspects.

The case's supervising investigator, Durham Police Department Sgt. Mark Gottlieb, reported that he and other authorities staged and videotaped the April 4, 2006, session in a way that, in his words, would allow "potential jurors, defense attorneys, prosecutors and other judicial officials" to see for themselves how it unfolded.

The mere fact that Gottlieb had it videotaped made it different from the two failed and unrecorded ID sessions another officer, Investigator Richard Clayton, had conducted with the accuser previously, Brad Bannon, one of the lawyers who represented Evans, said Tuesday.

"It was videotaped for presentation in court," Bannon said. "It's ludicrous on 10 different levels that they're saying it wasn't to identify people."

Gottlieb's summary, along with a separate set of notes from lead investigator Ben Himan, showed that police went to unusual lengths to prepare for the April 4 photo session.

Gottlieb told his immediate commanders, Lt. Mark Ripberger and Capt. Jeff Lamb, that the plan was in the works, and both investigators sought help from colleagues with the crucial PowerPoint presentation. …Gottlieb's photo session with the accuser supplied most, if not all, of the evidence police and Nifong used to indict the three players.

The reports from Gottlieb and Himan show that the plan emerged during the final week of March 2006, as the case was gaining notoriety following media reports about the department's successful attempt the week before to gather fresh photos and DNA samples from 46 of the team's 47 players.

The detectives met with Nifong on March 29 and again on March 31. In the first meeting, the district attorney asked them to contact members of the lacrosse team to see if they'd talk. In the second, according to Gottlieb, he suggested assembling the photos taken the week before and showing them to the accuser "to see if she recalled seeing the individuals at the party.


Gottlieb said he reported the [sic] Nifong's suggestion to Lamb and Ripberger on March 31, and had Himan and Investigator Shanda Williams start working on the PowerPoint. Himan finished the job on April 3, the following Monday, after having Clayton and another investigator, Michele Soucie, review the presentation. The next day, Gottlieb had an office assistant, Van Clinton, look over the presentation again, and then had Clayton and two crime-scene technicians, Angela Ashby and Heather Maddry, help him show it to the accuser.

Once the photo session started, Ashby ran the video camera, which was set up to record both the accuser and the screen of the laptop computer displaying the PowerPoint. Gottlieb set up a separate monitor for the accuser. Clayton took notes and Maddry timed the presentation.

In total, Gottlieb’s notes detailed the participation by no less than ten members of the Durham Police Department (Lt. Mark Ripberger, Cpt. Jeff Lamb, Benjamin Himan, Michelle Soucie, Van Clinton, Angela Ashby, Heather Maddry, Shanda Williams, Richard Clayton, and Gottlieb himself) and Defendant Mike Nifong in the meticulous orchestration and manufacture of the fraudulent identifications of the innocent men indicted for crimes that never occurred. Yet, despite the massive undertaking, both Chalmers and Baker have repeatedly pretended that the made-for-video lineup was not a lineup and the "surprise" identifications were inadvertent.

As stated in the report, it was the primary intent of the investigator at the time the photographs were shown to the witness to have her identify which of the individuals she recalls being at the party rather than to identify her alleged attackers. This decision to attempt to identify witnesses rather than suspects was driven primarily by the fact that the witness had failed to identify her attackers in six previous suspect identification processes which were governed by G.O. 4077. For the stated purpose of obtaining her recollection of the individuals at the party who could be of assistance in the investigation, this process was well suited to achieve that goal. The process however was not well suited for suspect identification primarily due to the fact that it was not conducted with the safeguards provided for in the policy. The identification of her alleged attackers in a process not designed or intended to produce such a result created a significant evidentiary quandary for the prosecutor. Regardless of the intent or expectations of the investigator, the resulting April 4 suspect identifications were procured through a process that would significantly reduce the likelihood that they could have survived the defense motions to suppress
their admission into evidence at trial. This issue is magnified substantially given the fact that these photo identifications appear to the strongest incriminating evidence against these young men. It is not lost on the Police Department that regardless of our intentions, the April 4 photo process created the opportunity for the false allegations to be specifically linked to Evans, Seligmann and Finnerty and further played a critical role in the decision by the Durham District Attorney to seek and ultimately obtain indictments of these individuals. Given the ultimate use of the results of showing the witness those pictures on that day, we regret the inadvertent creation of the opportunity to perpetuate false charges against these individuals. Nevertheless, I do not concur with the assertion that the investigators went into the April 4 photo process with the intention, either on their own initiative or at the direction of the District Attorney, to violate G.O. 4077 by inducing the witness to identify her alleged attackers through a less reliable process.

In his empty report to the Mayor and City Council, Chalmers stated:

On March 31, 2006, Investigator Himan and his immediate supervisor, Sgt. Mark Gottlieb, met with District Attorney Nifong to update him on the case. During the meeting, investigators inquired as to what, if any, use could be made of the new photographs that were taken as a result of the non-testimonial identification order. The District Attorney suggested showing Mangum all of the photographs in order to see if she could provide any additional information or details about the night in question. Investigators hoped that this would develop some leads, such as potential witnesses, for them since those initially developed in the case were becoming exhausted. In addition, investigators had been unable to determine whether Mangum was impaired on the nightof her alleged attack and, if so, by what substance. Certain date rape drugs, such as Rohypnol and GHB, often result in amnesia of the victim but other substances, such as ecstasy and alcohol, typically do not. If the victim had some recollection of any of the individuals in the photographs, then this could help establish that she was not impaired by a memory altering substance which would then assist in gauging the reliability of Mangum’s allegations.

On April 4, 2006, Sgt. Gottlieb, assisted by another officer and two crime scene investigators, showed Mangum the recently acquired team photographs. In the process of describing her recollection of persons and events at the party, she began identifying certain individuals as potentially her attackers. Officers did not intend, nor were they expecting, Mangum to positively identify her alleged attackers during this process, particularly since she had not done so in any of the earlier photo arrays which contained the individuals she had identified by name or which had been placed at the party and closely associated with its arrangements. Had it been the expectation of investigators that use of the photos in this manner would have resulted in Mangum identifying a suspect, officers would have believed that General Order 4077, “Eyewitness Identification” was applicable and would have acted in accordance with it. Faced with this turn of events, theinvestigator decided to note Mangum’s comments and proceed to show her the remainder of the photographs. Abruptly stopping the observations after such comments could have been construed by the witness as confirmation that she had selected the “right” individuals and could arguably taint either these, or future, identifications.

Clearly, Gottlieb’s notes and the extravagant made-for-video production contradict the innocuous motives ascribed to Gottlieb by Baker and Chalmers. It defies reason to accept that the admittedly staged April 4 lineup was conducted without confident expectations that Crystal Mangum would finally provide the indictment enabling identifications she had failed to provide in earlier less manipulated attempts. While Gottlieb’s admission, as related by Gronberg, offers confirmation of the expectations of police investigators and Defendant Nifong, his article fails to ask the ominous question underlying this revelation.

If identifications were confidently expected on April 4, 2006, ... so confidently expected, in fact, that ten individuals, from the district tttorney down to a DPD office assistant, participated in the planning and production of the staged event ... what gave investigators the certainty and belief that identifications would be forthcoming from a false accuser who had failed through the course of six previous lineups to identify a single imagined attacker? Short of an indication in advance from the accuser that she would come through with Hoax saving identifications in the wake of the SBI’s failure to detect any DNA evidence supporting her false accusations, there is nothing that would have reasonably given Nifong or Gottlieb the confidence that the staged lineup would result in compelling, even if contrived, identifications.

Certainly, at this point, and without a full scale criminal investigation into the Nifong/Mangum Hoax, the suggestion that the fix was in prior to the choreographed lineup is highly speculative and based primarily, although not entirely, on the confidence demonstrated by Gottlieb’s noted expectations and the elaborate staging of the event. Despite the speculative nature of the suggestion, it is far less of a stretch to accept that investigators had reason to expect identifications prior to pulling out all the stops, than to gullibly believe they got lucky and serendipitously obtained the false identifications when the cameras happened to be rolling.

In addition to Gottlieb’s admission to staging the carefully planned production and the extravagance of the production itself, there are several other factors that support the speculation that the leading lady was at least communicated with, if not prepped, for her role in the video-taped event. Foremost among these indicators that the fix was in are: Travis Mangum’s premature revelation on the eve of his daughter’s starring role that identifications had been made; Defendant Nifong’s statements preceding the identifications foreshadowing their arrival; Nifong’s initial admission to meeting with the accuser followed by his adamant and convoluted denials of ever having discussed the case with her; and the subsequent CYA meeting between Nifong, Baker, Chalmers, Hodge, and police attorney.
Travis the Prescient

One of the most colorful cast members in Durham’s Theater of the Absurd production of “The Hoax” was Travis Mangum, the father of the false accuser, Crystal Mangum. Throughout the thirteen month run of the Nifong/Mangum Hoax, Mr. Mangum interjected comic relief into the drama with his misstatements, inventive descriptions, and exaggerations. Obviously, Mr. Mangum, despite the challenges presented by truth and reality, was motivated by a genuine fatherly concern for his daughter and the desire to believe that his daughter was deserving of his trust. From broomsticks to bruises, the father of the false accuser has been a fount of misinformation. Yet, on one occasion, it appears he was remarkably prescient.

On April 3, 2006, one day BEFORE Durham police investigators, at the direction of rogue District Attorney Mike Nifong, conducted the choreographed lineup that led to the indictment of innocent men for a crime that never occurred, MSNBC’s Rita Cosby aired an interview with Travis Mangum. Amazingly, some twenty-four hours before the staged lineup session occurred, Mr. Mangum revealed that his daughter, who viewing six separate photo arrays during the previous three weeks had failed to identify any of her fictional attackers, had identified the three men she would point her finger at the next day

Cosby: “In just a moment, we’re going to hear from her father in his first national television interview. We’ll be breaking some big and some surprising news in that interview that may bolster the woman’s claims…And the father of the alleged victim in this case speaks out in his first national television interview. He does not want his face to be shown in order to protect the identity of his daughter. He told me what she says happened the night she was allegedly raped. And some big news. For the first time, we’re learning that the woman, his daughter, says she was able to immediately identify three boys in photos supplied by authorities.”

Cosby: Would she be able to ID them?

Travis Mangum: She said she did. She ID’d them to the (INAUDIBLE)

Cosby: Was she able to ID all three?

Travis Mangum: Yes.

Cosby: Positively?

Travis Mangum: Yes.

Cosby: No doubt in her mind it was those three?

Travis Mangum: No doubt in her mind (INAUDIBLE)

Cosby: And why is she sure that those are the three?

Travis Mangum: Well, she said she’d know their face.

While Mr. Mangum has repeatedly proven himself void of credibility, the coincidence of his leaking the identifications on the eve of their occurrence, taken in context with Sgt. Mark Gottlieb’s admission that the April 4 lineup was staged in the days preceding the event, gives rise to additional concerns about the extent of the overt manipulation involved in the framing of the Duke Innocents.

Nifong hints at ID’s

Initially, media darling Mike Nifong repeatedly assured a national audience that DNA testing conducted by the State Bureau of Investigation would clearly identify suspects for him to indict. However, within days Nifong learned that the DNA tests were a bust and immediately began to publicly dismiss the importance of the DNA results. Simultaneously, Nifong gave instructions for the staged lineup and began to hint at having an accuser who could identify her imagined attackers.

On March 27, Durham County Defendant-in-Chief Mike Nifong asked the NC State Bureau of Investigation to rush the testing of the 46 Duke lacrosse players' DNA samples taken after Judge Ronald Stephens, "duped” by the factually inaccurate affidavit of Assistant District Attorney David Saacks, granted a non-testimonial order. NC Department of Justice spokeswoman Noelle “The investigation isn’t over” Talley quickly announced that the SBI would eagerly comply. On March 27 and into March 28, Nifong assured the public that DNA evidence would identify the “hooligans.”

"March 27-28: In his first public comments on the matter, Nifong repeatedly expressed confidence—in interviews with MSNBC and with North Carolina stations WRAL and NBC-17—that the DNA evidence produced by the court order would solve the case." Durham-in-Wonderland: What Did Nifong Know, and When Did he Know It?.

"On March 28, he announced, “There won't be any arrests before next week. I have decided not to make arrests until DNA evidence is back.” Durham-in-Wonderland: The Soucie Memo

At some point on March 28, Defendant Nifong would be informed of the first results from the eagerly expedited DNA tests. There was no semen, blood, or saliva detected by the SBI lab.

"On March 28, 2006, the SBI lab examined the items from the rape kit and was unable to find any semen, blood, or saliva on any of those items." NC State Bar

"March 28, Nifong got DNA test results." Stuart Taylor

Given the findings, Nifong did an immediate and bizarre about face. DNA, which Nifong's office had promised would "immediately rule out the innocent," went from being definitive evidence to totally irrelevant. Later that evening, Nifong would begin his “How does DNA exonerate you?” campaign with two live, nationally broadcast interviews that signaled the start of his continuing effort to downplay the importance of the once urgent DNA testing.

ABRAMS: I assume based on the fact that you requested DNA from 46 of the 47 members of the team that there is DNA evidence that was found that's relevant to the case.

NIFONG: We hope that there will be DNA evidence that will be relevant to the case. We cannot know that for certain until all of the evidence has been tested. MSNBC

COSBY: You know, you say three men. I know that you‘ve gotten DNA for what, more than 40 members of the lacrosse team. Why is that critical? What are you trying to hone in on?

NIFONG: Well, if there is DNA evidence within the victim, then this will enable us to definitely establish who the perpetrators of the offense were. At this point, of course, we don‘t know whether or not there is DNA available to test, but if that is found, then we have—by taking samples from all the members of the lacrosse team who fit profile, we will be able to determine which of those players was the person or which ones of those players were the people who committed the assault. MSNBC

March 28, 2006

Nifong and the Accuser

As was the case with his attempts to deny meeting with Dr. Brian Meehan on April 10 and learning that DNA testing had exonerated the men he would soon indict, Defendant Nifong, after initially admitting to discussing the case at great length with Crystal Mangum prior to the staged identifications, would eventually take great care to deny meeting with the false accuser.

Joe Neff's second installment of the News & Observer’s five part series on the Nifong/Mangum Hoax indicates that, contrary to Nifong’s repeated assertions to the Court, he did claim to have spoken with the false accuser prior to bringing indictments and more importantly, prior to her identification of four “attackers” at the corrupt April 4 identification lottery.

“[Defense Attorney Bill] Thomas said Nifong wouldn't listen: "He said that he had personally interviewed her and had spoke with her at length about this case, and that he fully believed every word she said about this incident, and that he knew a lot more about this case than I did, and that e was going to proceed as he saw fit."

“Nifong was smug and self-assured, Thomas said: "I had 27 years of experience with him, and he was looking me in the eye. He said he had interviewed her, he discussed the details of the case, he believed her and that my view of her as perhaps being a call girl working for an escort service, running around making things up for financial gain, was absolutely false. ... He went on to say what a wonderful person she was. He said she was fully believable, she was intelligent, articulate ... and telling a convincing story about what happened."

Gronberg’s article reveals not only that the lineups were as staged as they appeared to be, but also that Durham officials met specifically to discuss how to spin the lineups. From Baker’s description of the meeting, it appears that the accidental identification spin presented by the City Manager and Chalmers was not an original thought but a suggestion fed to them by the District Attorney last spring.

City Manager Patrick Baker said Tuesday he didn't know why Gottlieb's report alluded to recording the session for potential jurors and court officials.

In the Police Department's eyes, "that was not a lineup," Police Chief Steve Chalmers said previously, echoing the explanation he and Baker adopted in a May 11 report on how authorities handled the investigation.

Baker said Tuesday that after he learned of the April 4 session, he asked for a second meeting with the detectives, the police attorney, Chalmers and Deputy Police Chief Ron Hodge. This time District Attorney Mike Nifong also attended.

"I asked the question point-blank as to what we were doing, what were we trying to accomplish and why wasn't it done pursuant to [department policy]," Baker said. "And the response that I got from the district attorney was the response that we have put out, that it wasn't a lineup, that it was not looking for suspects."

Admittedly, this post is rife with speculation, but when you have the City Manager admitting to a coordinated effort on the part of himself, the Chief of Police, the Assistant Chief of Police, the District Attorney, and a police attorney to deny both the obvious and a damning admission by the lead police investigator, who was coincidently removed from the case shortly after the notes detailing his confession appeared, it doesn’t take a black helicopter pilot to say, "Hmm..."…


bill anderson said...

Good work, Liestoppers!!

The preparations for this session tell us that the fix was in. If there is a criminal investigation, then the Baker-Chalmers report is Exhibit A in obstruction of justice claims.

The thing to keep in mind is that it already was decided beforehand that Crystal would name people in this session, and they wanted to make sure their ducks were in a row. Period. Anything they are telling us that is different is a lie -- and a crime.

Anonymous said...

They researched all the players and chose which ones would fit their hoax. Colin had that outstanding D.C. problem so that would play great in the press. Dave was a renter of the house and hosted the party. If you look up all 3 boys zip codes, they are the wealthest. Maybe they planned to get a piece of the $ they told Crystal she could extort from them. They all knew in advance who they were going to nail. They knew in advance they were innocent. They should all be put in jail for 30 years...all of the criminals who played a role.

Anonymous said...

Carolyn says:

Excellent catch there about Crystal's father boasting his daughter had picked three men BEFORE she actually picked them.

Awesome work, LieStoppers!

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine anyone, least of all this crowd, looking up zip codes. Poor Travis is an undeducated and poor man. Picking on him is like shooting fish in a barrell.