The North Carolina State Bar has hit Durham district attorney Mike Nifong with much-deserved ethics charges:
The North Carolina bar filed ethics charges Thursday against the prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse sexual assault case, accusing him of saying misleading and inflammatory things to the media about the athletes under suspicion.
The punishment for ethics violations can range from admonishment to disbarment. The complaint could also force District Attorney Mike Nifong off the case by creating a conflict of interest.
...Among the four rules of professional conduct that Nifong was accused of violating was a prohibition against making comments "that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused."
...The bar cited 41 quotations and eight paraphrased statements made to newspaper and TV reporters, saying many of them amounted to "improper commentary about the character, credibility and reputation of the accused" or their alleged unwillingness to cooperate. Most of the comments were in March and April, in the early days of the case.
- Nifong referred to the lacrosse players as "a bunch of hooligans."
- He declared: "I am convinced there was a rape, yes, sir."
- He told ESPN: "One would wonder why one needs an attorney if one was not charged and had not done anything wrong."
- He told The New York Times: "I'm disappointed that no one has been enough of a man to come forward. And if they would have spoken up at the time, this may never have happened."
Nifong was also charged with breaking a rule against "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation." The bar said that when DNA testing failed to find any evidence a lacrosse player raped the accuser, Nifong told a reporter the players might have used a condom.
According to the bar, Nifong knew that assertion was misleading, because he had received a report from an emergency room nurse in which the accuser said her attackers did not use a condom.
How weak is Nifong's case? Here's how the usually cautious AP summarizes it:
In recent months - and especially after last week - legal experts and even Nifong's own colleagues have warned openly that the case appears pitifully weak.
...The weaknesses in the case include the lack of DNA evidence; the accuser's ever-shifting story; one player's claim to have an alibi supported by receipts and time-stamped photos; and the defense's insistence that the photo lineup that was used to identify the defendants violated police procedures and was skewed against the men.
Other that that, it's a slam dunk!
PS The Smoking Gun has posted the full text of the complaint.
I'm disgusted. The lacrosse team has already forfeited two games. I hope they forfeit the rest of the season.
Yeah, Mr. Reasonable all right. You got so taken in by the hype and Nifong's bluster. Here's a hint, next time either couch your comments with those wonderful weasel words like, "if this accusation is true...", or simply don't run off with your preconceived notions taking the place of the truth.
Contrary to Verdon's insinuation, however, the post does say that the accuser was "allegedly gang-raped" (italics added). And the statement of disgust he quotes comes after a description of a racial slur that was indeed disgusting. It is true that, like many other people here, I took the charges very seriously at first. But if you look at my posts on the case over time, though, you'll see that I immediately began raising questions about inconsistencies in the accuser's story -- see here, here, here, and here for a sampling from the first few weeks.