Profile in Courage
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.