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.
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 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.