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D.A. in Duke case faces new charges

Ex-prosecutor in assault probe is hit with more ethics allegations.

January 25, 2007|Richard Fausset | Times Staff Writer

ATLANTA — The North Carolina State Bar on Wednesday leveled new ethics charges against the former prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse sexual assault case, alleging he withheld potentially exculpatory DNA evidence and misled a judge and defense attorneys.

Durham County Dist. Atty. Mike Nifong recently handed the high-profile case over to the state attorney general after the bar charged him with making statements in the media that were likely to prejudice the trial.

If convicted by a disciplinary commission, Nifong could be suspended or disbarred.

The accuser in the case -- a stripper who originally said she was raped by three lacrosse team members in March during a party where she performed -- has given conflicting statements.

Central to the charges filed Wednesday against Nifong are DNA samples collected by a nurse who examined the accuser.

Tests performed by a private lab found DNA from several men. But those samples did not match the DNA profiles of any of the 46 lacrosse team members who had submitted samples to the police.

According to the complaint, Nifong told the director of the lab that the final report should not discuss the unidentified DNA samples.

The information was left out of the report that Nifong shared with the defense. The 10-page document did make note of DNA found on the woman's fingernails that was a partial match with two unindicted Duke players, and DNA from a vaginal swab that matched her boyfriend's DNA profile. But Nifong did not turn over the other evidence, despite a May 17 discovery request for "any ... examinations or tests conducted by the expert."

Nifong's attorney, David Freedman, said that the district attorney turned over the remaining DNA evidence in October.

The complaint said Nifong "did not make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to him that tended to negate the guilt of the accused," in violation of the state's rules of conduct for lawyers.

The complaint also alleges that Nifong made "misrepresentations and false statements" to the court and defense attorneys about the undisclosed DNA evidence. Freedman said he would be filing a detailed response to the allegations in about 30 days. For now, he said, "we deny that Mike Nifong was intentionally involved in any misconduct."

Suspects Reade Seligmann and Colin Finnerty, both 20, and David Evans, 23, remain free on bail. They originally were charged with rape, but Nifong dropped the charges in December after the accuser said she was not sure she had been vaginally penetrated by a penis -- a requirement for a rape charge under state law. They still face charges of kidnapping and sexual assault.

Nifong is scheduled to face trial on the ethics charges in May.


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