Nifong Apologizes To Lacrosse Players

Anne Blythe, News & Observer (Raleigh), July 26, 2007

At the beginning of a hearing today on criminal contempt charges rising out of his handling of the Duke lacrosse case, former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong apologized to the three former lacrosse players he had tried to prosecute on sexual assault charges, and to their families.

Nifong, with a new and neatly trimmed Van Dyke beard and mustache, said that after reading N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper’s full report on the lacrosse case, he no longer believes there was credible evidence to proceed with cases against the players or that any crimes were committed against Crystal Gail Mangum, the escort service dancer who made the allegations.

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None of the exonerated players or their family members attended the hearing.

Defense lawyer Joseph B. Cheshire V said the families were appreciative of Nifong’s apology today.

“For many months, we have sought a real and meaningful apology from Mr. Nifong for the pain he has caused these families and these young men,” Cheshire said.

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After Nifong’s apology, lawyers representing the players agreed not to seek sanctions against Nifong, who resigned early this month and is in the process of being disbarred.

The defense team had previously asked Smith to make Nifong pay for the 60 to 100 hours of work it took one of the lawyers to ferret out relevant test results in 1,844 pages of DNA documents. The results helped show the presence of DNA from men not on the lacrosse team on and in Magnum.

Nifong’s lawyers, Jim Glover and Ann B. Petersen, asked the judge for a grand jury indictment before proceeding with the case, but Smith denied their request. They also asked for a jury trial, which also was turned down.

The lawyers did not get into the heart of the contempt case today. The judge scheduled a hearing on the matter for Aug. 30 and 31.

Nifong could face a possible fine as well as a jail sentence of up to 30 days.

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Text of the apology offered Thursday by former Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong for his handling of the discredited Duke lacrosse rape case. Nifong apologized during a hearing in his criminal contempt of court case.

With the court’s permission, I would have a brief statement:

The last 16 months have proven to be a difficult and painful journey for my family and for myself. I know this has also been a difficult and painful journey for Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans, for their families, for Durham and for the state of North Carolina.

We all need to heal. I believe, however, that this healing process cannot truly begin until all proceedings involving this matter are concluded and everyone is able to go forward. I have resigned my position as Durham’s district attorney as a part of this process.

I have read the report released by the attorney general, including his recitation of evidence I did not have—evidence that he obtained from his own investigation.

I agree with the attorney general’s statement that there is no credible evidence that Mr. Seligmann, Mr. Finnerty or Mr. Evans committed any of the crimes for which they were indicted—or any other crimes against (the accuser)—during the party that occurred on March 13th and 14th, 2006, at North Buchanan Boulevard in Durham.

Mr. Seligmann, Mr. Finnerty and Mr. Evans were entitled to the presumption of innocence when the were under indictment. Surely they are entitled to more than that now as they go forward for the rest of their lives, and that is what the attorney general tried to give them in his declaration that they are innocent.

I have admitted on more than one occasion that I have made mistakes in the prosecution of these cases. For that, I sincerely apologize to Mr. Seligmann, Mr. Finnerty, Mr. Evans and to their families.

It is my hope that all of us can learn from the mistakes in this case, that all of us can begin to move forward. It is my hope that we can start this process today.

Thank you, your honor.

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