Thursday, March 13, 2008

Profile in Courage - Moezeldin Elmostafa


In those first months of the Hoax/Frame we witness the terrible rush to judgement caused by the false accusations. One of the turning points that influenced the media and general public to have second thoughts was the presentation of an alibi defense for Reade Seligmann, which the disgraced, disbarred, and former DA Nifong had refused to even look at. In great part it rested on the word of one man, Moezeldin Elmostafa. This was written in Oct 2006 and posted on the Friends of Duke University web site (FODU). It is re-posted with the permission of the author, Joan Collins, to honor Mr. Elmostafa in his being named Reader's Digest 2008 Hero of the Year

Profile in Courage
Moezeldin Elmostafa

Previously I wrote about Dave Evans and Kerstin Kimel to remind us not to forget that amid the darkness of the Duke Lacrosse Case, some true heroes have emerged. Now I want to write about a different kind of hero, an ordinary man caught up in extraordinary circumstances: Moezeldin Elmostafa.

Elmostafa was the taxi driver caught in the cross fire of the indictment of Reade Seligmann. He picked up Reade Seligmann and Rob Wellington and drove them to the Wachovia ATM machine, then to a fast-food restaurant called “Cook Out” and finally to their dorms on Duke’s West Campus. The cab driver spoke first with defense attorneys and then police and recalled picking up the two young men. Mr. Elmostafa signed an affidavit describing his recollection of the evening. Rather than accept the cab driver’s word and the new evidence in the case, the police reportedly asked Elmostafa whether he had been paid for his testimony.

As a result of his coming forward, the cabbie was arrested on May 11, 2006 on an almost 3-year-old warrant for larceny. The larceny charge related to picking up a passenger, driving her to the mall, and then driving her home. Shortly thereafter, Elmostafa was contacted by store security who informed him that his passenger had shoplifted five purses totaling about $250.

Elmostafa assisted security by providing his passenger’s address and his own driver’s license. Store security thanked him for his help and he never thought about it again. The passenger, Lisa Faye Hawkins, a woman with a record of 127 arrests, pleaded guilty about three months later.

Coincidentally, investigators in the Duke Lacrosse case arrested Elmostafa. About his arrest, the taxi driver asserted, “They asked me if I had anything new to say about the lacrosse case. When I said no, they took me to the magistrate.” Mr. Elmostafa was represented by attorney, Thomas Loflin, who called the larceny charges “entirely frivolous”. Loflin said, "It was striking that two principal investigators in the lacrosse case served the warrant instead of one uniformed officer.” According to Loflin, detectives don't serve warrants unless it is a murder or something serious. Loflin said, "This is the first case I know of where that has happened, in Durham at least.” Elmostafa was acquitted of all charges on August 29, 2006. During the trial, two investigators in the Duke Lacrosse case sat in the courtroom.

Throughout this travesty known as the Duke Lacrosse case, some ‘fantastic lies’ have been told and unraveled. In recalling the events of that evening, Mr. Elmostafa never wavered. Perhaps he followed Mark Twain’s advice “Always tell the truth; that way you don't have to remember what you said.” He bravely stood up to Durham’s high stakes game of ‘Truth or Consequences’ and in doing so he risked everything. He was arrested, incurred legal expenses, spent five hours in jail, and endured his picture and name on the news and in the press. All of this for a total stranger.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Elmostafa decided not to remain silent about something that mattered, even in the face of risk to himself. In doing so, he showed himself to be a person of integrity and a true hero.

Writing this Profile in Courage series has reminded me that courage transcends gender, race, nationality, and social status. Courage lies deep within some of us, waiting for that special moment to emerge. In that one moment, courage can turn an ordinary individual into an extraordinary human being who becomes role model for us all. Moezeldin Elmostafa is such a hero.

Joan Collins


Hat Tip: Joan Collins, FODU

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great essay, Joan!!!

Anonymous said...

Joan Collins that was beautiful. Elmo is one of Durham's shining lights. It gives me hope. Now I just want to know when is City Hall going to honor a man who has won a national award for being a Hero?

Anonymous said...

"Adversity doesn't build character, it reveals it".

Anonymous said...

Those two police force apes glaring at Elmo in the photo are typical of the slack jawed moronic mouth breathers on the force.

Jim in San Diego said...

Joan,

It is so important to remember the heroes. There are so many villains. We will need heroes next time.

Are there any heroes at Duke? The only Duke employee to lose their job over the Hoax was Mike Pressler.

I nominate three, for you to consider with your considerable skills as an essayist.

1. Duke Professor Coleman. He stood up when it counted, which was the most important time.

Some have said he did not stay the course. However, we now know something of the enormous pressures within Duke to toe the PC party line, from other faculty, the administration, and the BOT. We thus recognize the courage it took within Duke to do the right thing.

2. Peter Lange. Stood up to the outrageous bigotted racist diatribe against the Lacrosse players by now-departed faculty member Houston Baker. Haven't heard much else about him. Where did he go?

3. Ken Larrey as proxy for the group of Duke students now leading "Students for an Ethical Duke". We have learned that members of DSED who are subject to grade retaliation and worse from certain of the "liberal" arts factulty have had to let Mr. Larrey, an engineer student, be the face of DSED.

Jim Peterson

joan collins said...

Thank you Baldo and Liestoppers for posting my Profile of Courage written so long ago on your main blog today. Yesterday, March 12th it was announced that Elmostafa won the Reader's Digest hero award. It is especially fitting that you chose March 13th to post this Profile of Courage as it marks the 2 year anniversary of the night of the party. Here is a portion of an email I received today from one of the Duke Moms:

"Today is March 13th...the day 2 years ago that started the ball rolling to change my family's life forever."

Anonymous said...

To jim in San diego:

A Profile of Courage was written on James Coleman back in Oct. 2006.

http://friendsofdukeuniversity.blogspot.com/2006/05/letters-from-friends-2.html#c116118863082654131

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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Jim in San Diego said...

To anonymous(plural).

If your standard is perfection, it is too high.

Your language is also inarticulate.

A hero is one who stands above the others. He (or she) does not have to be a God. In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

Coleman was great on 60 Minutes. When Coleman was profiled, he was courageous. Since then he became mute! I think he was told to shut up.

Jim in San Diego said...

Anonymous, 6:09

I think you are right.

We know that other faculty have subsequently called Prof. Coleman an "Uncle Tom".

Very few black males could stand up to this kind of peer pressure.

We also learn from the allegations of the Ekstrand and Cooper lawsuits of the organized, totalitarian (one hesitates to use the words "gestapo-like") attempts to prevent Duke students from registering to vote or, in fact publicly protesting events in any way (except of course, those allowed to attack the lacrosse players).

Duke appears as a dark and ominous place to be if you do not buy into the accepted PC culture. Parents beware.

Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

Professor Coleman is a brilliant man - He has achieved much in his life - "Very few black men could stand up to the peer pressure" - does that come out of the KKK manual? Professor Coleman, like many black men has been "standing up to peer pressure and white pressure, his entire life" - the stuff on this thread is a disgrace - although, I know y'all are not, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I thought this was supposed to be about Elmostafa????

Jim in San Diego said...

Anonymous 8:42 & 12:08

Please re-read my first post on this thread, nominating Prof Coleman as a HERO.

My other posts defend him. I could have much more to say, as I admire him so for his courage and behavior when it counted. He stood up when no one else would do so.

My comment that he is under tremendous peer pressure is certainly a true statement, from everything we know about Duke. Do you not agree?

Are you aware he has been called an "Uncle Tom" by other faculty at Duke? Don't you agree this is a terrible thing to say about a black man?

I am critical of him for what I perceive to be his retirement from the scene since the three lacrosse players were found to be innocent. This does not reduce the value of his defense of due process when no one else wanted the job.

So, in what way is my defense of Prof Coleman "from the kkk"? This pejorative is not honorable.

(By the way, if you can differentiate yourself in some way "even anonymous 123", we can carry on a better dialogue.).

Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

Jim - I appreciate that you have respect for the good Professor, as do I. My referrance to the KKK manual was in response to "Very few Black men could stand up to the peer group pressure", which frankly, I found inappropriate and racist. I apologize if I overreached and accept that it was not meant to hurt.
Frankly, I hesitate to have a "call sign" as people have been crucified, on these boards, when they allow themselves to be identified,and don;t parrott the party line, This is not meant to be argumentative but too many of the bloggers are easly stunned, appalled and shocked over events. Their reactions do not support any knowledge of reality and urban life style. I find their reactions totally out of step with what goes on in the real world. The Professor wrote a fair assessment of the team's history - the good and bad. They were nice, respectful kids but got drunk to often and got in trouble when drunk. They had NO history of racism - Kc calling this "a stunning vindication was hyper speak. Professor Coleman called him on his statement, which made the Heir Professor a "farm animal" to the rabid supporters of the team. Its late, I am rambling but am sincere in my apology to you. I do not drink alcohol and am just tired,

Anonymous said...

(3:01 am)

You try to present yourself as decent and objective but you clearly have an agenda.
The fact that you can say Jim sounded like a member of the "KKK" shows your poor judgment.
And it shows that you're the type to throw out inflammatory garbage without identifying yourself as Jim does.
I wouldn't give your posts the time of day after you used the "KKK" reference. Too childish.
Coleman did good initially. Since then, he backstroked to get a warm spot for him and his tag-a-long spouse in the law school.
A real man would have stuck by his word. Maybe the 88 know him better than we do.
Whatever.

Anonymous said...

Well, 8:14 - that just ain't true.

Anonymous said...

What I wrote was, the statement
"very few black men could stand up to peer group pressure" is straight out of the KKK Manual. O course, white men do it better 0 even though they can't jump.

Anonymous said...

Look everyone.

At 11:06 we have a racist pig who thinks he's funny.

Yeah that "jump" movie with Wesley Snipes was hilarious.

But what white men can do is pay endless taxes to keep up those whose talent is "jumping". And jumping into the sack and producing baby after baby.

Now throw out more racist jargon for us, please.

Jim in San Diego said...

anonymous 3:01

The internet is noisy.

There are a handful of people here I would enjoy meeting over a cup of coffee. You sound like such a person.

I appreciate your last comments.

Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

I wonder what Elmo would have done if not for also being on camera from the ATM machine? The lawyers had their evidence, and this man had to be honest because of it, over fear of the police because it also gave him safety to come forward.

The man doesn't need a statue, he has his green card. Give the man a pat on the back, but he is hardly a hero of the year over what I was raised to be simply just telling the truth!

Anonymous said...

Well, he is a hero to me - Beside being honest, an attitude of gratitude does not hurt.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, in this country the man who tells the truth in court where hundreds of others would have lied at the state's behest is deserving of a statue. That's what qualifies you as a hero: just doing what's right. The opposite normally prevails in America's courts.

Anonymous said...

6:09 - Check the LS blog - there is a picture from the ATM - Elmo is not visable in the picture - just the ON TIME Cab - No proof he was driving the cab, except his word He was not forced to verify Reade's alibi - just did the right thing.

Anonymous said...

6:09 You must be joking. Elmo could conveniently forgotten that evening. He is one of the few people in Durham who did the right thing. He went over and above- that's why he is the 2008 Hero of the Year.He was David standing up to the crooked Durham Goliath.

Your question should be where was everyone else?????

Anonymous said...

And those boys are the heroes of the decade. May the US legal system never be the same again.

Anonymous said...

Oh please, the heros of the decade - Only a team groupie would write something stupid like that.

Anonymous said...

No the players are not heroes, but they handled a horrible situation with grace and dignity beyond their years. Some of the adults in the saga, could learn from watching them.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, keep your mouth shut and call mommy and daddy to get you a big city lawyer. That takes real courage?

Anonymous said...

9:17

You're lucky you're still walking around and that someone hasn't beat your ass!

Anonymous said...

Joan, I believe your blog has been compromised and don't know why. Has gotten mean lately. Will continue to enjoy your writings.

Cry for those who anger or watch their clocks, same results.

Jim in San Diego said...

11:16

Anonymity encourages irresponsible posting, it seems.

Some blogs, such as DSED, I believe, will not accept anonymous posts.

It only tkes one irresponsible anonymous poster to damage a blog.

The reasons for anonymity, while understandable are not in the end very persuasive, IMHO.


Jim Peterson

Anonymous said...

How bout you put his statue right between your gnomes and lawn jockey you lousy lot of hypocrites

Anonymous said...

Those of you who are outraged when I refer to the boys as "heroes" need to question your priorities. Why does that upset you so much? They are the heroes of the decade because:

1/ The worst problem America faces is false accusations in particular and the corruption of the legal system in general, and

2/ Because these boys have done more to combat this evil than anyone else.

Choose your own heroes; don't worry about those of us who admire the dignity and courage with which these young men have conducted themselves.

As for the trolls-- how are they damaging the blog? They're just a handful of idiots. The contrast they provide only contributes to the cause of justice.

Anonymous said...

You are right. Each to his own hero. Mine are the police, firman and the armed forces. Those citizens who put themselves in harms way for us, everyday joes.
Jim - it take courage for you to put your name out there. I don't want them picking on me by name.

Anonymous said...

There are heroes in the military, in firehouses, and in police stations all across this country. In fact, plenty of cops expose false accusations. The trouble is that the false accusers, like Crystal Mangum, are then given a free ride by the criminal injustice system.

By the time frauds like the Duke Hoax are exposed, the victims' lives have already been permanently damaged in a way that is unique to this particular crime. And those are the ones who are fortunate enough to avoid false conviction.

Anonymous said...

The decade includes Flight 93, the fireman, police, medical folk and everyday citizens at the World Trade Center World on 9/11/2001.

Anonymous said...

EVERY TIME YOU CALL THE BOYS HEROES A PUPPY IS KILLED!

STOPLIESTOPPERSBEFORETHEPUPPIESALLDIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

To make those comparisons is silly, but in a sense this case was more important than 9/11. Terrorists occassionally succeed in blowing people up, but this was about the integrity of our legal system and the soul of a society that has been misled into enabling false accusations and corruption.

So no, the people you mentioned are not more heroic than these boys.

Anonymous said...

I am not the one who wrote, "they are the heroes of the decade." I just pointed out the competition for "heroes of the decade." "More important than 9/11"???? WOW

Anonymous said...

The issues raised by Duke Lax are more important than those raised by 9/11. Bin Laden will go away; our corrupt legal system will not.

joan collins said...

This post was supposed to HONOR one man, Elmostafa. Somewhere along the way it got hijacked.

Ask the families of 21 of my neighbors killed in 9/11 if their innocent family members who were murdered were heroes. But those terrorists were an evil that came from outside and invaded our country. Sad to say the evil that Elmostafa had to face was some of our own citizens right in his own backyard.

Anonymous said...

Exactly, Joan. And there are different kinds of heroism; one doesn't have to be superior to the other.

Anonymous said...

Well put 4:00 pm, there is a difference. We hope never to be brought to that test, under that fire. What if? Can we be the honest taxi driver, the truck driver spotting the snipers and using your rig to block the ramp, or the last guy on the plane in the Potomac?
Elmo is a hero and it's warming to think others are likely around.

Anonymous said...

A lot of crimes are foiled because of good men like him, including false accusaations.