Just Another Guy with Opinions

Mike Nifong goes to Jail; Sudents Seek Settlement

Posted by shadmia on September 8, 2007


Mike Nifong, the disgraced former prosecutor who handled the Duke Lacrosse players rape case, reported to jail to serve 24 hours for criminal contempt of court. He had previously been disbarred after being found guilty of fraud, dishonesty, deceit or misrepresentation; of making false statements of material fact before a judge; of making false statements of material fact before bar investigators, and of lying about withholding exculpatory DNA evidence, among other violations. Mr. Nifong, surrounded by supporters including his wife and son, reported to jail, declining to answer questions from reporters. The sheriff said Mr. Nifong would be held alone in a cell for his protection.

Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III sentenced Nifong to a single day in jail. He had faced as many as 30 days in jail and a fine as high as $500.

“If what I impose with regard to Mr. Nifong would make things better or different for what’s already happened, I don’t know what it would be or how I could do it,” Smith said.

Reading his decision from the bench minutes after the conclusion of two days of testimony, Smith said Nifong “willfully made false statements” to the court in September when he insisted he had given defense attorneys all results from a critical DNA test. In fact, Smith found, Nifong had provided the defense with a report on the DNA testing that he knew to be incomplete. The omitted data contained test results showing that DNA of multiple men, none of whom were lacrosse players, was on a woman who said she was attacked at a March 2006 party thrown by Duke’s lacrosse team.

Meanwhile the Lacrosse students, David F. Evans, 24; Collin Finnerty, 20; and Reade W. Seligmann, 21, through their lawyers, Barry Scheck and Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., were in discussions with the city for a settlement of $30 million and a package of law enforcement changes. If the city refuses, the students are threatening to file a civil rights lawsuit. The changes requested by the students and their lawyers include:

  • Oversight of the police department by an independent commission
  • Stricter procedures and videotaping of witness identifications conducted by the police
  • The passage of a City Council resolution calling on the state to establish ombudsmen for district attorney’s offices and require the transcription of grand jury proceedings

These families are absolutely adamant that the settlement must include law enforcement changes. City representatives were shown a copy of a civil rights complaint to be filed next month if no progress has been made on negotiations. The suit would be filed against Mr. Nifong, the Durham Police Department and other participants in the investigation. The city is potentially liable because of the police department’s involvement in bringing proceedings against the students.

The students had already settled with Duke University for an undisclosed amount and, according to a nonprofit organization formed to raise money for their legal fees, have spent an estimated $3 million on their defense.


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