Saturday, June 16, 2007

Defendant Nifong Follows Apology With Another Attack

Fantatstic Tomatoes

In what appears to be a desperate attempt to save his license to practice law, Durham County's disgraced District Attorney Mike Nifong feigned remorse for his malicious prosecution of David Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Seligmann while testifying before the North Carolina State Bar's Disciplinary Hearing Committee yesterday. Offering a vague promise to resign, Defendant Nifong tearfully suggested that he regretted the pain he has caused his victims whom he outlined as the Bar, his community, and "the Finnertys, Seligmanns, and Evans." Considering that his apology was sandwiched between a week-long campaign to deceive the Bar while smearing his victims - a campaign that continued aggressively when his testimony resumed after his Hail Mary pass - Nifong's apology and stated intention to resign appear half-hearted at best and insincerely manipulative at worst. The Menace to Justice found few, if any, willing takers for his last ditch effort to escape disbarment.

In a brief editorial this morning, The Charlotte Observer characterized Defendant Nifong's staged breakdown as a self-serving ploy.
Critics of Mike Nifong say his decision, announced Friday, to resign as Durham's district attorney is a self-serving ploy to save his law license. We agree.

It's far too convenient for Mr. Nifong to acknowledge now that he can't serve the people of Durham effectively. That admission comes as he faced stinging condemnation this week during an N.C. State Bar ethics hearing over his handling of rape charges against Duke University lacrosse players. The State Bar has accused him of unethical conduct for withholding evidence that could have exonerated the players. He could be disbarred.

In April, Attorney General Roy Cooper's office took over the case and dismissed the charges. We said then that if the system works as it should, Mr. Nifong would be out of a job. The state Bar should still send him a stinging rebuke.

But we're glad Mr. Nifong finally did what the system seems poised to do: He fired himself.
In response to Nifong's continued slander of their clients that resumed almost immediately following his "apology," defense attorneys representing Nifong's victims vowed to pursue criminal contempt of court charges against the rogue prosecutor.
Mr. Nifong, still on the stand after his statement, faced forceful questioning from the chairman of the three-member ethics panel. During that testimony, he said he still believed that “something happened” in the bathroom where the stripper claimed to have been assaulted, although he said it might have been a nonsexual assault or an act of intimidation that resulted in the breaking up of the party.

Afterward, James P. Cooney III, a lawyer for one of the former defendants, Reade W. Seligmann, condemned Mr. Nifong for criticizing the lacrosse team’s behavior at the party. “For him to apologize,” Mr. Cooney said, “and then to continue to slander 46 innocent people about a crime that did not happen, is outrageous.”
Joseph B. Cheshire, a lawyer for one of the three former players, said of Mr. Nifong’s promise to resign: “I believe it is a cynical political attempt to save his law license. His apology is far too late.”
Mr. Cheshire said defense lawyers planned to file a motion requesting that Mr. Nifong be found in criminal contempt of court for misstatements to the judge and lawyers in pretrial hearings. The charge, if upheld, could result in fines or jail time. The families are also considering civil suits.

"It's clear as a nose on your face that he didn't give a damn about whether these boys were innocent," Cheshire said. "All he wanted to do was try to convict them and charge them." Herald-Sun
Wade Smith, a lawyer for Collin Finnerty, one of the three players, said the apology rings hollow. "It comes too late to really ease the pain in the hearts of the families," he said.
The disbelief and outrage expressed by the State's largest newspaper and the defense attorneys was echoed by the families of Nifong's victims and legal experts alike.

The families of the exonerated players shook their heads in disbelief or dismay numerous times during Nifong's testimony.

But nothing made them shake their heads more than when Lane Williamson, chairman of the panel deciding the prosecutor's fate, asked whether, after all the evidence and testimony and the results of the attorney general's investigation, Nifong now believes that a sexual assault took place.

"I think something happened in that bathroom," Nifong answered. "Something happened to make everyone leave that scene very quickly." N&O

Kevin Finnerty, Collin's father, said he thinks Nifong resigned because he was cornered.

"The frustrating thing for us is what he put us through for the past year and a half didn't have to happen," Finnerty said. "The collateral damage that he inflicted on our family, on the community, on race relations, on future rape victims, on Duke University -- it didn't have to happen."

SF Gate

"The writing could not be clearer on the wall," said Jim Cohen, a professor at Fordham University School of Law. "They recognize that they're in big trouble," he said of Nifong and his team. "They're hoping for something less than a complete disbarment."

Thomas Metzloff, a professor at Duke University Law School, said he believed Nifong wanted to show remorse and admit responsibility - factors that could lessen the penalty meted out by a three-member grievance panel of the North Carolina State Bar.
Metzloff, who also attended the hearing, said Nifong seemed sincere. But he and other legal experts questioned the timing of his self-recrimination. "It is too late," Metzloff said. "It would have been more effective if it would have come a couple of months ago."

Further adding to the impression of insincerty, Defendant Nifong takes exception to the accusations he lied yet minutes later admits to making multiple misreprenstations of material fact to the court while under cross-examination. In addition to the failure to accept responsibility for his misrepresentations, Defendant Nifong reveals his lack of sincerity by continuing to refer to proven false accuser Crystal Mangum as a victim for the duration of his testimony.

"Much of the criticism that has been directed at me in this case is justified," he said. "The allegation ... that I am a liar is not justified."

In cross-examination only minutes later, however, Nifong admitted that he repeatedly made false statements in court over a seven-month period.

... And he said he was surprised that he never used the phrase "alleged victim" in his many public statements: "I can't believe I did that."

Yet, in his testimony Friday, Nifong never used the word "alleged" as he referred to Mangum as "the victim" at least eight times. N&O

Given the defense strategy employed by the ethically bankrupt prosecutor - a strategy which has given the impression he had abandoned hope of escaping sanctions from the State Bar and instead was intent on inflicting as much additional pain from the innocent men he framed and their families in his swan song - it is incumbent upon the DHC to protect the public from the Menace to Justice by concluding this trial with Defendant Nifong's disbarment.

Throughout the trial, Defendant Nifong made clear the danger he continues to represent to the public by advantaging himself of the fantastic lies of false accuser Crystal Mangum, the ineptitude of Durham Police Investigator Benjamin Himan, the inexperience of SANE Nurse Tara Levicy, the servitude of henchman Linwood Wilson, and the complicity of DNA Security lab director Brian Meehan to justify his misdeeds. While defending his misconduct, Defendant Nifong has resurrected the shameful strategy of distortion, deception, racial manipulation, and innuendo that fueled the Hoax and buoyed him to an ill-gotten election victory while harming innocent people, dividing his community, and bringing disrepute not only to his office but also to the entire Criminal Justice system.

As for his offer to resign, we are reminded of his empty promise to Governor Mike Easley not to run for election if appointed to the office of District Attorney on an interim basis. Considering that his remorse to his victims held not longer than minutes, and given his continual deception to the DHC this week and to the world over the past fifteen months, it remains difficult to take the Master of Contradictions at his word. Unless Monday morning brings an announcement that includes an immediate effective date to his promise, we will view his intention to resign as little more than another self serving word game.


Anonymous said...

Excellent commentary. Other than Reade's testimony, I think the most telling single piece of evidence in the trial was the clip they showed of Nifong sarcastically giggling as Kirk Osborne told the Court that Reade had strong alibi evidence. In my experience, that was vintage Nifong -- he hasn't just been a bully in this case; he's always been that way.

Ken Duke
Durham Lawyer

Anonymous said...

Dollars to donuts that Reade and Collin had the grace and maturity not to smirk and giggle during Nutfong's "breakdown" on the stand yesterday.

Too bad the "adults" in this saga never managed to show the class the boys did.

Anonymous said...

Nifong is a Classic, Garden-Variety NPD-- A suprisingly common syndrome that we all need to learn a lot more about:

I encourage the faithful contributers to this site and also the public at large to learn everything possible about what is clinically known as "Narcissistic Personality Disorder"--

Nifong is a textbook case and is unusual in only one respect-- he has been caught red-handed.

The reason why we all need to know as much as possible about this disorder is that stastically, one out of every twenty five people has it.

The only difference with the Nifong case is that most NPDs are very clever and are not always so easily caught. Individuals with NPD are charcacterized by a complete lack of empathy for others (bordering on sociopathic), grandiose self-interest, and an obsession with power. To top this off, NPDs tend to be virtuoso social manipulators (although they can slip up and they can be caught).

Lastly, people with Narcisisstic Personality Disorder are famous for doing tremendous psychological damage to those around them.

**The fact that the statistical incidence of this disorder is one in every twenty-five persons makes this story not just unique but urgent.

It means that we have all personally known a Mike Nifong (if not several) in our lives which I think is one reason why people find this case so riviting, (in addition to the empathy that non-NPD's will feel for the three boys made victim in this case).

But this is also an urgent story because NPD'S tend to gravitate towards management positions in companies and government, and often can be found anywhere that there are positions of power.

**This is not meant to disparage the many good people who also become managers or otherwise powerful in society, using their positions in order to serve the good of their community and their country, but we sorely need to become a lot better at detecting NPD's earlier-- because statistically there are an awful lot of Mike Nifongs out there, and these individuals do a lot of damage.

Imagine a world where the term NPD was widely known and it's insideous patterns of deception and abuse of others was widely recognized. Imagine a society where techniques for identifying and dealing with these individuals (within the bounds of democratic law) were widely disseminated and practiced.

Mike Nifong's case should not stand as a unique story but should rather serve as a wake-up call for the rest of us. We have all known a Mike Nifong or two. And we all need to learn a lot more about how to deal with these individuals.


JM in Colorado

Anonymous said...

P.S. "Narcissistic Personality Disorder"-- a term that every adult in society needs to become familiar with--

And given that 1 in every 25 adults has it, and that these people do tremendous damage to those around them-- means that NPD is also a subject that everybody ahould become very well versed in.


Zimri said...

Conceding that in this hellhole DA M.N. was the Devil, let's not forget that all those around him had the opportunity not to buy his wares.

I am particularly haunted by Seligmann's freshman study partner, who turned around and published an article likening him and his team to the villains of "the Jim Crow south". That article is almost certainly this one (which I have saved locally - no memory hole here).

Nifong gave the choice not only to the black community in Durham, but to the black student body in Duke, whether they would side with class solidarity and due process or else with racial solidarity and injustice. Nifong also made Duke's black population demonstrate whether they could even be friends with their white colleagues. Keep in mind that the author of this piece was the most collegial person in his class. Seligmann's classmate found the opportunity to curry favour with her Group of 88 prof - and jumped on it. But hey - she got to go on Nightline. Nifong didn't make her do any of that.

The author of this piece, one Aria Branch (since she clearly doesn't mind the publicity) was closing her freshman year at the time and will presumably return to Duke as a junior in a few months. Googling her name reveals also Donna Lisker's cop-out, courtesy the Duke Womens' Center.

Souls go cheap in Durham but cheaper at Duke.

Zimri said...

Ahem, bad link. Alarming Context / Where i live now (yes, small "I").