Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Hoax Within A Hoax

Looking back through the first few weeks of the Duke Hoax, it is difficult to see where the Durham Police Department ends and the District Attorney’s office begins. In multiple interviews on Monday 27th, Mr. Nifong announced that he was personally going to prosecute the Duke case and that he was convinced that a rape had occurred. Previously, we discussed just how little evidence he had when he made those statements. Today, we examine how these first statements of Mr. Nifong and the joint DA/DPD Hoax involving the release of the first 911 call served to manipulate and inflame the Durham community and Duke University.

March 27
"The information that I have does lead me to conclude that a rape did occur," Nifong said.
"I'm making a statement to the Durham community and, as a citizen of Durham, I am making a statement for the Durham community. This is not the kind of activity we condone, and it must be dealt with quickly and harshly."
"As you get additional information through Crimestoppers or through other witnesses, there are leads to follow up on the possible identities of some of the suspects," Nifong said.
"It is a case that talks about what this community stands for," Nifong said.
Mr. Nifong’s statements followed three consecutive days of attention getting protests and immediately preceded the 911 Hoax Within A Hoax that fueled the fires of outrage for the next several months as Nifong pandered to the community for votes by pushing the hotspot buttons of race, class and sexual violence.

By now, it is common knowledge that the Durham Police Department was informed by Kim Roberts/Pittman on March 14 and March 22 that she was the source of the first 911 call (see #1 below). We see this admission in Officer Shelton’s notes of March 14’s call to the Kroger, which oddly are dated April 9. We also see that a mention of the call appears in the written statement given by Ms. Pittman on March 22 and in Officer Himan’s account of his interview with Ms. Pittman from that same day. (Kim Roberts Admits 911 Call)

March 28

Despite this admission by Pittman/Roberts, the Durham Police Department followed Mr. Nifong’s statements from March 27 by releasing the audio tape of the call to the media the next day. In an interview with WRAL on the day the tapes were released, it is indicated that Mr. Nifong, in relation to the released call, said investigators are also looking into whether race was a factor in the case. The coincidence of the timing of the 911 tapes being released in relation to Mr. Nifong’s declarations of guilt and priority in conjunction with the common theme of racial hate crime presented by his words and the police department’s release of the tapes gives rise to the conclusion that perhaps the tapes were ordered released by Mr. Nifong.

Other than to inflame the passions of the community as the election approached, we fail to see a motive for the instigation of this Hoax Within A Hoax. By releasing these tapes and subsequently feigning that the call was from an unrelated, unknown pair of women equally subjected to racial harassment by the same group of hooligans on the same evening, the DA and his accomplices from the DPD created an atmosphere of division and hatred within Durham. It was upon this pedestal that the vote-pandering Nifong rode to primary victory less than two months later. It must be noted that this confusion was not created by an eager journalist who acquired and made public these tapes. The tapes sat available at Durham PD for two weeks until the day following Mr. Nifong's announcement that he would personally prosecute the case, when DPD issued a news release of the tapes together with a public appeal from DPD for information from the public about the identification of the 911 caller.

March 29-30

To add fuel to the racial fire Nifong would pour the following gasoline-like comments over the next few days:
"The circumstances of the rape indicated a deep racial motivation for some of the things that were done," District Attorney Mike Nifong said. "It makes a crime that is by its nature one of the most offensive and invasive even more so." NBC 17 March 29
"The racial slurs involved are relevant to show the mindset … involved in this particular attack," Nifong told Syler. "And, obviously, it made what is already an extremely reprehensible act even more reprehensible." - CBS March 30

Enabling Mr. Nifong’s Hoax, we find an accomplice in DPD, spokeswoman Kammie Michael, who declines to answer whether the call was made by the second dancer, and who then issues a public plea for help in identifying this “unknown” caller. What public interest could possibly have been served by the release of the 911 calls and the charade of “We don't know who she is and would like to talk to her." NY Times March 30

March 31

The highlight of this Hoax Within a Hoax occurs on March 31 when Mr. Nifong appears on the Abrams Report within hours of a meeting with Himan and clumsily denies knowledge of who made this call. Initially, Mr. Nifong attempts to evade the answer by replying with a question and hoping that the “personally” qualifier will get him off the hook:
ABRAMS: Have you identified the person who made the 911-call?
NIFONG: Have I personally identified...
(Abrams, smelling the lie getting closer, persists but Nifong again attempts to buy time as he tries to answer the question with a question)
NIFONG: Do I know if the...
Persistence pays off and Mr. Nifong is forced to either play dumb or confess:
ABRAMS: Do you know who it is?
NIFONG: ... to my knowledge that—I do not.
(For good measure, Abrams ties Mr. Nifong down to his deceitful answer and we see dumb grow dumber)
ABRAMS: OK. So that person has not come forward to say I was the one who made the call.
NIFONG: To my knowledge, no one has done that yet.
While Mr. Nifong is clearly aiming for plausible deniability, his reluctance to answer and attempts to evade betray his intentions and his lack of integrity.

The Hoax Within a Hoax was finally put to rest by the efforts of defense attorney Butch Williams (see # 2 below) and others. The irreparable damage was done, however, and the stage was set for vicious racial division within Durham as the world watched, drawn to the spectacle. The invasion of the New Black Panther Party soon followed as did preconviction for the Duke Three in the minds of many. Immediate repercussions for the entire lacrosse team soon followed from the Gang of 88, Brodhead and others at Duke (see #3 below). Of course, the primary election victory for Mr. Nifong, bouyed by the public profit he earned while duping the nation and his community, was another example of the damage done by the not-so-mini Hoax. While there were other bombs to be thrown, other lies to be told and other truth to be delayed, this Hoax Within a Hoax was the little accelerant that could.
911 OPERATOR: Durham 911. Where’s your emergency?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. I don’t know if this is an emergency or not necessarily, but I’m in Durham and I was driving down near Duke’s campus. And it’s me and my black girlfriend. And the guy -- there’s, like, a white guy by the Duke wall, and he was just hollered out (DELETED) to me. And I’m just so angry, I didn’t know who to call! I don’t know if this is an emergency. They’re just hanging out by the wall...911
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... on Buchanan, off of Buchanan Street. It’s right in front of 610 Buchanan Street. And I saw them all come out, like, a big frat house, and me and my black girlfriend are walking by, and they called us (DELETED)!
JAMES “BUTCH” WILLIAMS, ATTY FOR DUKE LACROSSE CAPT. DANIEL FLANNERY: You listen to the tape and listen to the discrepancies in the tape, first I was driving by, then I was walking by and if you go ahead to the second tape, they gave the address. You can't—there's no numbers on that particular house, so anyone looking at that house at night could not be able to identify numerically what the number is on that house unless they've been there.
WILLIAMS: Why hasn't the person who made that call come forward? I mean it's been in all of the news outlets, all in the—the news media has printed it. Why haven't they come forward to say yes, I made that 911-call that night and why was a certain emphasis on me and my black friend. I mean people don't call and make phone calls like that. You know, we're going to get to the bottom of what the motives are in this particular matter.
ABRAMS: So it sounds like you're saying you think it might have been one of the women involved here making the call?
WILLIAMS: Oh, OK. Now you're starting to see where I'm going. ____________________________________________________
# 3 Thoughts on Duke’s response to the Hoax Within a Hoax:
We also find that the deception surrounding the first 911 call Hoax was so effective that it became critical to forming Duke's response and laid the groundwork for the view that whether or not a rape occurred, the lacrosse players engaged in deplorable behavior worthy of 88 professors condemning them in an ad in the Chronicle.
President Brodhead was first informed of the existence of the 911 call by a reporter during his news conference on Tuesday, March 28. The next day it was clear he had accepted the 911 call at Hoax face value (as it appears it was intended that he and everyone else in Durham should do). He appeared truly appalled and went so far as to apologize to the two implied by Hoax women subjected to the abuse. He stated the following at a student rally on March 29th: “I have now had the opportunity to listen to the tape…It is disgusting. Racism and its hateful language have no place in this community. I am sorry the woman and her friend were subjected to such abuse.” (WRAL)
In addition, the racial slurs reported on the 911 call were a central piece of Professor Houston Baker's infamous letter, dated Wednesday March 29. Baker stated, “And when will the others assaulted by racists epithets while passing 610 Buchanan ever forget that dark moment brought on them by a group of drunken Duke boys? Young, white, violent, drunken men among us—implicitly boasted by our athletic directs and administrators—have injured lives.” (WRAL)


August West said...


Anonymous said...

Great Article! This is the kind of journalism that the reporters should have been doing!

Anonymous said...

ABRAMS: OK. So that person has not come forward to say I was the one who made the call.
NIFONG: To my knowledge, no one has done that yet.

I think he meant that Nikki had been standing still when she said she made the call in the parking lot, and sitting down when she wrote that she made the call in her statement, so she had never COME FORWARD to say she made the call. Get it? If of course she was walking towards him as she was saying she made the call, he would have admitted that someone had come forward. Absolute accuracy counts for Mr. Nifong. Not the sloppy manner of speaking of the rest of the world.

Anonymous said...

I saw the Abrams interview and the others. You really could smell the lies and see it unfold - at a time when I did not know who Nifong was. Great journallism.