Skip

Mike Nifong disbarred, troubles not over
June 17, 2007 4:46 PM   Subscribe

"If it were a plot of a John Grisham novel it would be considered to be perhaps too contrived." An NYT transcript of the comments of state ethics panel chairman F. Lane Williamson, discussing why "there’s no discipline short of disbarment that would be appropriate" for Duke lacrosse case prosecutor Mike Nifong. In related news, Durham police investigator Linwood Wilson, hired by Nifong and criticized for manipulating witnesses in that case and others, is still employed.
posted by mediareport (60 comments total)

 
If four poor kids (of any race) had been falsely accused of raping a rich girl they'd all be in jail and no one would ever hear about it.

In other news a former state bureaucrat from Georgia was just release from prison on appeal after a corrupted U.S. Attorney prosecuted her in order to score political points in the upcoming election.
posted by delmoi at 5:05 PM on June 17, 2007


That's ridiculous. They expect me to believe a story exists that's "too contrived" to be a John Grisham novel?
posted by Partial Law at 5:25 PM on June 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


Agreed, delmoi, but in most of the US if four rich white kids had been accused of rape the DA would never have even considered pressing charges. That's the tragedy of this - a lot of guys are now set in their opinion that most rape accusations are false, when for every one case like this there are likely 100,000 cases of reported real rape that don't get investigated, and don't make it to page C42 of the local newspaper.

Nifong has done more harm than just to those innocent men.
posted by watsondog at 5:27 PM on June 17, 2007


If four poor kids (of any race) had been falsely accused of raping a rich girl they'd all be in jail and no one would ever hear about it.

Does that make it OK that Nifong tried to frame those three guys?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:29 PM on June 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


what a terrific legal smackdown
posted by sswiller at 5:29 PM on June 17, 2007


I'm glad to see Nifong go down, but it's certainly true that more corrupt prosecutors - ones who don't go after people with enough money to hire decent lawyers - ought to be going down alongside him.

Life sucks, and so does the justice system.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:38 PM on June 17, 2007


Nifong has done more harm than just to those innocent men.

True, and as mentioned, he did a hell of a lot of harm to women who actually do get raped. Hopefully not too much though -- a decision like this makes it clear that he never should have been granted a law degree, not to mention a position of power, in the first place. Of course, it would have been nice if someone had called bullshit on him much, much earlier.
posted by bardic at 5:38 PM on June 17, 2007


Oh, speaking of frame jobs: Cory Maye is going up for an appeal, but the DA is no longer pushing for the death penalty.

Relatedly, here's an interview with one of the jurors who convicted him.

...

Obligatory Innocence Project link.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:45 PM on June 17, 2007


Does that make it OK that Nifong tried to frame those three guys?

Do you honestly believe I think that?
posted by delmoi at 5:58 PM on June 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


he did a hell of a lot of harm to women who actually do get raped.

Amen. It's odd that Nifong had a good rep before this incident; among many other things, this looks like a textbook case of ambition and power corrupting judgment. And for what it's worth, I'm completely disgusted by Williamson's attempt (on the third page of the statement) to excuse previous wrist-slaps in high-profile prosecutorial misconduct cases in North Carolina. One of the cases he lectures us about involved the prosecution of a man whom the DAs had clear evidence was in jail at the time of the murder; they withheld that information from the defense and prosecuted him anyway. Williamson loses whatever credibility he had with that whining at the end.
posted by mediareport at 6:04 PM on June 17, 2007


Do you honestly believe I think that?

yeah, I've noticed in previous Duke threads various conservative-types on this site confusing us "liberals"' desire to see our justice system function fairly with a desire to see the Duke principals sent away regardless of their guilt.

Don't know what's up with that, really. Symptom of their inability to think, I guess.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 6:08 PM on June 17, 2007


If four unicorns had been falsely accused of stealing the rainbows from the sky, they'd all be in Candyland playing backgammon and no one would ever hear about it.
posted by Stan Chin at 6:09 PM on June 17, 2007 [5 favorites]


if four bears had been falsely accused of crapping in the woods, they'd all be in jellystone park and no one would ever hear about it
posted by pyramid termite at 6:16 PM on June 17, 2007


If four poor kids (of any race) had been falsely accused of raping a rich girl they'd all be in jail and no one would ever hear about it.
Perhaps so. And one of the reasons for this is that those poor kids wouldn't have had lawyers who poured through the documents and realized that there was DNA evidence being withheld.

At the same time, it's pretty fascinating how now everyone is getting hot and bothered about prosecutorial misconduct. Usually, when it gets revealed, the alleged criminal simply goes free, the DA's office releases a "mistakes were made" press release, and everyone goes back to doing what they were doing.
posted by deanc at 6:32 PM on June 17, 2007


yeah, I've noticed in previous Duke threads various conservative-types on this site confusing us "liberals"' desire to see our justice system function fairly with a desire to see the Duke principals sent away regardless of their guilt.

Like I said in email conversation with a gentleman who was in the previous Duke thread, I think this case struck a lot of nerves on both sides (i.e., the lacrosse team's detractors and defenders), as it plays to numerous firmly held convictions re: race, class and gender. The verdict, for some, may read be as a validation of one side's deeper convictions -- that is, convictions that have little to do with whether these guys raped this woman -- and an invalidation of the other's, and I think this is what rankles one side and has the other crowing maybe a little too loud. Anyway, it's the general disdain for the accused and reluctance to see them as poor, innocent little fellas that I think has some thinking that folks on the other side of the fence wish these men had been jailed, guilty or not. For me, I certainly don't feel that way...I see no cognitive dissonance in thinking the accused (or at least some of the accused) are shitheels and also thinking it'd be pretty fucked up for them to go to prison for a crime they didn't commit.

Which is all I have to say about this particular foray into the minefield of opinion re: this whole debacle. I now return you to the next inevitable Paris Hilton conversation.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:05 PM on June 17, 2007


If four priests walk into a bar...
posted by katillathehun at 7:06 PM on June 17, 2007


"If four priests walk into a bar..."

...the chances of the bar being busted for underage drinking go up exponentially.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:45 PM on June 17, 2007


Does that make it OK that Nifong tried to frame those three guys?

Do you honestly believe I think that?


I don't know about Steven C. Den Beste, but I don't think you would be OK with rich, white boys being framed, but at the same time, I'm not quite sure why you made your comment.

In all of the other Duke rape case threads, a bunch of people always pile in and speculate about what would've happened under different circumstances. It's an easy exercise, and there's no real accountability, because there's no way to prove anyone wrong.

The thing is, though, people don't feel so compelled to broadly speculate on the role of race and socioeconomic class in other threads, even threads involving the legal system.

I think it's a little disingenuous to pretend that your only interest is in a fair and neutral judicial system, because the Fair and Neutral Justice Brigade frankly has been suspiciously absent from, oh, basically ever other type of thread.

I could understand trumpeting the need for a fair and neutral justice system in a thread about traditionally marginalized persons being victimized by the justice system, but this is not such a thread. You could easily make such a thread, if that sort of thing interested you, but making bold statements about race and privilege in the American justice system that are grounded only in hypothetical speculation and blanketed in only a very specific, but frankly loosely-related thread is leaving a bad taste in some people's mouths.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:52 PM on June 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


yeah, I've noticed in previous Duke threads various conservative-types on this site confusing us "liberals"' desire to see our justice system function fairly with a desire to see the Duke principals sent away regardless of their guilt. Don't know what's up with that, really. Symptom of their inability to think, I guess.

Funny, I was going to say...

OK, on topic, I think it's the incessant conflation (example here) of the real with the seemingly-relevant-but-not-relevant that together combine to make horseshit.

Just because they are aggressive lacrosse asshats does not make them guilty. Just because she was a black stripper does not mean she has a heart of gold and could really make it in this world if only she weren't so oppressed by the aggressive lacrosse asshats. Just because aggressive lacrosse asshats see justice done does not make it any more or less of a tragedy when justice is not done elsewhere (it's still a tragedy, period).

Sometimes an asshat is just an asshat. It's not always evidence that an asshat conspiracy is afoot.
posted by frogan at 7:54 PM on June 17, 2007 [2 favorites]


On review, Mr. President says what I want to say, only more eloquently.
posted by frogan at 7:56 PM on June 17, 2007


If four poor kids (of any race) had been falsely accused of raping a rich girl they'd all be in jail and no one would ever hear about it.

At the April 11 press conference following that of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper in which he "said not only are the players innocent of the charges they faced, but there is 'no credible evidence that an attack occurred at that house on that night. All evidence contradicts her story. She contradicts herself,' he said of the accuser, Crystal Gail Mangum.'"

"The players also acknowledged that their families had the monetary means to afford a defense that ultimately proved their innocence, and said prosecutors and police need to be kept in check to prevent similar 'railroading' of those less well off."*
posted by ericb at 8:03 PM on June 17, 2007


Around here we keep hearing that the stripper apparently had longstanding mental issues.

I think she really got attacked, just not by those guys at that party.

Nifong better get ready for the lawsuits that are pretty much inevitable at this point.
posted by konolia at 8:06 PM on June 17, 2007


Nifong better get ready for the lawsuits that are pretty much inevitable at this point.

They won't go after Nifong alone. Those pockets aren't quite deep enough. The people of the state of North Carolina will be paying this one off for a long time. Duke University will likely pay some. And I wouldn't be surprised if there were multiple Richard Jewell-like suits going after certain media outlets.
posted by frogan at 8:10 PM on June 17, 2007


I hope the three innocent guys sue the fuck out of Duke and their proud "88."

As far as I can tell, they still haven't apologized for virtually lynching their own students.

Honestly, the only honorable one I can find was the coach, who stepped down without much ruckus. His players aren't rapists, but they shouldn't have been hiring strippers and acting the way they did.

So he loses his job. The 88 professors will continue to be paid douchebags.
posted by bardic at 8:14 PM on June 17, 2007


Nifong better get ready for the lawsuits that are pretty much inevitable at this point.

“...the disgraced prosecutor who committed ‘intentional prosecutorial misconduct’ in his pursuit of the Duke lacrosse rape case faces an uncertain — and likely troubled — future.

The falsely accused players and their families, having racked up millions of dollars in legal bills, appear likely to file civil lawsuits against the disbarred prosecutor. Their attorneys want a judge to consider holding Nifong in criminal contempt for lying to the court.

‘Some people will take that as being mean-spirited and kicking somebody when they're down,’ defense attorney Joseph Cheshire said Sunday. ‘But we believe that this issue is enormously important and it carries significant precedent and (the judge) ought to be the one to make that decision because it happened in his court.’

Nifong was disbarred Saturday, a ruling that came one day after he stunned his staff and own attorneys by announcing through tears he planned to resign as Durham County's district attorney. In imposing punishment, a disciplinary committee called Nifong's prosecution of Dave Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann a politically motivated ‘fiasco.’

The five-day ethics trial ended Nifong's three-decade legal career, which he spent entirely as a prosecutor in Durham County. He was generally viewed as an honest lawyer before taking over the case of a woman who told police she was raped at a March 2006 lacrosse team party where she was hired to perform as a stripper.

Aware that DNA evidence had identified genetic material from several men — but no members of the lacrosse team — in the accuser's underwear and body, and that police were unable to place one of the players at the scene, Nifong still sought and won indictments against Seligmann and Finnerty in April 2006.

He indicted Evans the next month. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, whose office took over the case in January, later declared that the trio were ‘innocent’ victims of Nifong's ‘tragic rush to accuse.’

Nifong himself agreed with the decision to take away his law license. ‘He wants this over with,’ said his attorney, David Freedman, who added that Nifong expects to send in his letter of resignation this week.

That probably won't be the end. Shortly after Nifong was disbarred, Seligmann attorney Jim Cooney put it simply: ‘I don't think any of us are done with Mr. Nifong yet.’

Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III, who oversaw part of the case, has already reminded Nifong he could still impose a punishment. The disciplinary committee ruled Saturday that Nifong lied when he told Smith and another judge on several occasions last summer that he knew of no information helpful to the defense that he hadn't turned over.

Cheshire said there is ‘certainly a significant probability’ the players and their families will file civil lawsuits. While such lawsuits could seek damages from the city of Durham, the police department or the accuser, it is a certainty they would name Nifong as a defendant.

It's not clear how much money the families could get out of Nifong, but the career civil servant's financial disclosure statement suggests it isn't much. His only listed income is his salary of about $110,000. Aside from his Durham home and some unspecified real estate in western North Carolina, Nifong appears to have no significant assets outside of any mutual funds and retirement accounts.

‘It was a very poignant and sad day because you never want to see a human being destroy himself,’ Cheshire said. ‘But it was a day that needed to happen for a lot of reasons — not the least of which was to send a message to people that prosecute cases that this activity absolutely will not be tolerated.

‘I think for the Evanses, they'll now be able to move on. Will they ever forget the horror of this year? No. Will it always be with us in some ways? Yes. But I think we'll be able to move forward.’” *
posted by ericb at 8:15 PM on June 17, 2007


Honestly, the only honorable one I can find was the coach, who stepped down without much ruckus.

Coach Mike Pressler didn't step-down. He was forced to resign.
"More than one year after his forced resignation, former men's lacrosse head coach Mike Pressler has reached a financial settlement with the university he once called home.

The terms of the agreement were finalized in mid-March, said John Burness, senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, but no information regarding the amount settled for was released.

‘Coach Pressler is an excellent coach and did a great job building the Duke men's lacrosse program,’ Burness told The Associated Press. ‘Unfortunately last spring it was essential for the team to have a change of leadership in order to move forward.’

The confirmation of a settlement came just days before the publication of ‘It's Not About the Truth: The Untold Story of the Duke Lacrosse Case and the Lives it Shattered,’ a book co-authored by Don Yaeger and Pressler recounting the former coach's story of the events of the past year.

Although Pressler could not be reached for comment for this article, Burness said the settlement was a way for the University to note Pressler's 16 seasons at the helm of the men's lacrosse program.

‘We regret the negative consequences this decision had on Coach Pressler,’ Burness said. ‘He and Duke reached an amicable, fair financial settlement in which Duke recognized his contributions to the lacrosse program and the circumstances of his departure.’

Pressler appeared on WRAL-TV June 11 to promote his book and discussed what the University can still do to provide resolution to the episode.

‘We're all here for the students in the education business and part of the education process is when you're wrong you admit you're wrong and you tell those people that you've wronged that you're sorry,’ Pressler said. ‘An apology to the players, especially the three indicted boys and all the parents and certainly the former coach and his family would go a long way in healing this episode in our lives and allowing both parties to move on and move forward.’"
posted by ericb at 8:40 PM on June 17, 2007


I think it's odd that a coach whose partly underage team was drinking and hiring strippers is being defended in some circles - in many cases the same circles that would crucify other coaches for the same offense. ericb, I know you've said you have relatives who play college lacrosse, but honestly, the fact that underage drinking and other questionable activity was going on for years in Duke's lacrosse program doesn't seem to you a firable offense?

It sure would be in a lot of places.
posted by mediareport at 8:50 PM on June 17, 2007


Around here we keep hearing that the stripper apparently had longstanding mental issues.

There's no "apparently" about it; it's basic info for anyone who's been following the case. Mangum's life had been a mess for a long time. I find myself hoping the families of the accused don't sue her, but don't see any way they couldn't.
posted by mediareport at 9:10 PM on June 17, 2007


I know you've said you have relatives who play college lacrosse, but honestly, the fact that underage drinking and other questionable activity was going on for years in Duke's lacrosse program doesn't seem to you a firable offense?

Ah -- yes -- resident/dorm advisers, faculty advisers, and especially coaches must be held responsible and accountable for the 'off-campus' antics of those with whom they have a relationship/responsibility. Let the 'fuckers' hang!!!

Like you, I realize that it is very, very rare that there is underage drinking, noise violations and questionable hirings of (male-and female) strippers at off and (even) on-campus events at U.S. colleges and universities. For those who are found to be engaged in such unseemly behavior -- all-and-any (including families, coaches, friends and others) should be condemned to one of Dante's circles-of-Hell. To which, I'm not sure. Any advice on your part is greatly appreciated.
posted by ericb at 9:14 PM on June 17, 2007


There's no "apparently" about it; it's basic info for anyone who's been following the case. Mangum's life had been a mess for a long time. I find myself hoping the families of the accused don't sue her, but don't see any way they couldn't.

On MSNBC one of the attorneys for the "wrongly accused" lacrosse players stated that they have no interest in pursuing charges/lawsuits against the false accuser Crystal Gail Mangum. They view her as a pawn in Nifong's "fiasco."

The true victims (Evans, Finnerty and Seligman) of Nifong's failed and false "witch-hunt" are seeking justice against him - in civil and criminal court.
posted by ericb at 9:34 PM on June 17, 2007


For those who are found to be engaged in such unseemly behavior -- all-and-any (including families, coaches, friends and others) should be condemned to one of Dante's circles-of-Hell.

Right, that's what I'm saying. Spare the sarcasm, eric; you're not good at it. All I'm suggesting is that your personal attachment to the sport may be encouraging you to buy into Pressler's "wronged hero" image a little bit too quickly. Is it normal where you live for a third of a team to have misdemeanor arrests for various drunken offenses? It's certainly not true on other Duke men's sports teams.

I'm not saying the coach is responsible for everything his players do off-campus, but there's at least a good argument that *something* was wrong with the coaching situation of the Duke lacrosse team, which means there's plenty of room to be both glad of Nifong's punishment *and* skeptical of Pressler's claim to have been unfairly wronged.
posted by mediareport at 9:39 PM on June 17, 2007


Steve Elvis and frogan nail it. Frogan, say what you will about prose but "an asshat conspiracy is afoot" is going to be my new go-to phrase for when anything goes horribly wrong.

Heywood Mogroot: I certainly appreciate that you, and most people wouldn't wish for a miscarriage of justice just to see some overprivileged white boys get theirs. However, you don't represent everyone and there are people out there who "wanted to see the rich get fucked." And there are still groups demanding "justice for the Survivor of the March 13, 2006 rape" (or at least, they're in no hurry to update their website to more closely reflect reality). And there are still people standing by the claim that the players were "guilty of everything but rape."

More generally, there are still a lot of people who grudgingly admit the players' innocence of rape but insist on following it up with a "but they sure are assholes lol" as if that's at all relevant.

So kudos for your high-minded and impartial sense of justice, but save your snarky comments about an "inability to think" for those with less valid concerns.
posted by Riki tiki at 9:39 PM on June 17, 2007


ericb, I don't know if you remember when this story hit in the first rush of coverage, but Pressler had been told by his AD *a year before* the stripper incident that Duke execs had reviewed the lacrosse team's disciplinary record and were concerned, and that "he had to do everything he could to get them in line and to not have any more behavior problems."

You can defend the students' behavior as "boys will be boys"-style antics if you feel you must, but Pressler had been warned his team was under a microscope, and the bad behavior didn't stop. Perhaps Pressler has an explanation in his book about why underage team members drinking in the captains' home didn't stop after he'd been warned about his team's discipline problem. Regardless, I think it's a real stretch to claim Duke didn't have any grounds for firing him when the shit hit the fan. Again.
posted by mediareport at 9:52 PM on June 17, 2007


I'm not saying the coach is responsible for everything his players do off-campus, but there's at least a good argument that *something* was wrong with the coaching situation of the Duke lacrosse team

A Duke University Review found "the members of the Duke Lacrosse team [to] have been academically and athletically responsible students."
"Lacrosse players also have performed well academically. In 2005, twenty seven members of the lacrosse team, more than half, made the Atlantic Coast Conference's Academic Honor Roll, more than any other ACC lacrosse team. Between 2001 and 2005, 146 members of the lacrosse team made the Academic Honor Roll, twice as many as the next ACC lacrosse team. The lacrosse team's academic performance generally is one of the best among all Duke athletic teams.

The team also has distinguished itself athletically. Members of the 2005 team, for example, earned numerous honors on the field. The 2005 ACC Player, Rookie, and Coach of the Year were from Duke. The team also received several national honors. The team lost in last year's NCAA championship game. This year's team was ranked second in preseason polls and was one of the favorites to win this year's national championship.

By all accounts, the lacrosse players are a cohesive, hard working, disciplined, and respectful athletic team. Their behavior on trips is described as exemplary. Players clean the team bus before disembarking. Airline personnel have complimented them for their behavior. They observe curfews. They obey the team's no alcohol rule before games. They are respectful of people who serve the team, including bus drivers, airline personnel, trainers, the equipment manager, the team manager, and the groundskeeper.

Finally, the lacrosse program has a 100% graduation rate. Alumni of the program apparently contribute to the community after college. We received letters of support for the team from two recently graduated former players who are presently serving in Iraq. A remarkable number of alumni are volunteer coaches for their local lacrosse teams. Many are employed in prestigious positions in business, law, and medicine. As evidenced by their support of the current team, alumni of the lacrosse program and their families are fiercely loyal to each other, to the lacrosse program, and to Duke."
posted by ericb at 10:03 PM on June 17, 2007


Perhaps Pressler has an explanation in his book about why underage team members drinking in the captains' home didn't stop after he'd been warned about his team's discipline problem. Regardless, I think it's a real stretch to claim Duke didn't have any grounds for firing him when the shit hit the fan. Again.

Let me step back from the current exchange and conversation.

I have an honest question.

What responsibility -- legal et al -- does a coach, an adviser (student, faculty, etc.) have for the (mis-) behavior of their "charges;" often undergraduate students when on and off campus?

How/why should these individuals be held accountable for the transgressions of one -- or, many?

Does the concept of in loco parentis (or, some other such idea) apply in these cases?
posted by ericb at 10:16 PM on June 17, 2007


A Duke University Review found "the members of the Duke Lacrosse team [to] have been academically and athletically responsible students."

Oops. Proper link to REPORT OF THE LACROSSE AD HOC REVIEW COMMITTEE.
posted by ericb at 10:29 PM on June 17, 2007


Let's face it, the fact that the Duke lacrosse players were found to be innocent doesn't wipe away the underlying issues of privilege and class that are in play in this story.

The fact that they are innocent --- that they didn't rape the stripper --- is just another manifestation of privilege, in my book.

A person of lesser privilege would have been more likely to go "all the way" and rape the stripper.

Leave it to the wealthy to always have the last laugh. They're wealthy not just in money, but they're also wealthy in ... innocence.
posted by jayder at 10:42 PM on June 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


A zombie would have been more likely to go "BRAAAIIINS" and eat the stripper.
posted by Stan Chin at 11:00 PM on June 17, 2007


A chimpanzee would have been more likely to fling poo at her.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:17 PM on June 17, 2007


“The President appointed Duke Law Professor, James E. Coleman, Jr., to head the committee to examine the lacrosse team's culture.*

Dr. Coleman, also an African-American, found that the team has exhibited ‘exemplary academic and athletic performance’ and is ‘[n]either racist or sexist. On the contrary, the coach of the Duke Women's Lacrosse team has expressed her sense of camaraderie that exists between the men's and women's team; members of the men's team, for example, consistently come to the women's games. The current as well as former African American members of the team have been extremely positive about the support the team provided them.’ Also in the report, while it was stated that the rates of alcohol abuse for the lacrosse team were higher than most other Duke athletic teams, ‘their conduct has not been different in character than the conduct of the typical Duke student who abuses alcohol.’*

Since then, Coleman has been one of the most vocal critics of Nifong's handling of the case. In an interview with 60 Minutes, Coleman argued that he pandered to the black community in the middle of the election campaign: ‘I think that he pandered to the community by saying 'I'm gonna go out there and defend your interests in seeing that these hooligans who committed the crime are prosecuted. I'm not gonna let their fathers, with all of their money, buy, you know, big-time lawyers and get them off. I'm doing this for you.'‘ Furthermore, Coleman stated that Nifong has committed serious prosecutorial misconduct, and if there was a conviction, there ‘would be a basis to have the conviction overturned based on his conduct.’”
posted by ericb at 11:35 PM on June 17, 2007


jayder, I'm really not sure what point you're trying to make. I see a couple of possible interpretations of your comment:
a) Fucking poor asshole scum, would be jailed even if they hadn't of done anything but would of done it, you know! Rich people are better in every way.
b) ????D?@#?@?????? huh?
posted by jacalata at 12:20 AM on June 18, 2007


This kind of prosecutorial misconduct occurs every day, especially the withholding of exculpatory evidence. Ask any criminal defense attorney. The only reasons this one was different was that the accused kids were white, the alleged victim was black, allowing the racist public to get on the accused's side for a change, and of course the huge sums paid to defense attorneys. When this happens to a prosecutor who pulls the same stunt with bunch of black boys accused of raping a white girl perhaps then we will have made progress against prosecutorial misconduct. I would love to see a bunch more prosecutors go the way of Nifong so that the rest would at least think about the consequences of their misdeeds.
posted by caddis at 1:37 AM on June 18, 2007


ericb, thanks for those links; I'd seen both of them and have long thought that Coleman has been one of the true heroes of this mess. He was in the local paper and very vocal about the misconduct very early on - one of the highlights of the Duke faculty in the whole thing.

That said, I'll note that nothing in what you've posted addresses the many drunken arrests or the clear warning about the lacrosse team's behavior Pressler was given a year before the stripper incident. Yes, Duke acted in haste and may not have followed proper procedures for firing a coach (thus the settlement, maybe). But you seem unable to accept that it's also possible Duke reacted quickly to a situation they'd already seen as troublesome, and that Pressler could have done more to stop drunken idiocy on his team.

Was that a firing offense? I know you don't agree, but I think there are decent arguments on both sides of that one.
posted by mediareport at 5:39 AM on June 18, 2007


Clearly, the Duke lacrosse players are not guilty of rape. They are, however, overprivileged rich jerks. The question becomes, then, why is it not illegal to be an overprivileged rich jerk? The answer, of course, is that if being an overprivileged rich jerk were to be made illegal, most members of the federal government would find themselves under indictment.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:32 AM on June 18, 2007


In other news a former state bureaucrat from Georgia was just release from prison on appeal after a corrupted U.S. Attorney prosecuted her in order to score political points in the upcoming election.

Wisconsin, actually. Georgia just happens to be the woman's name.
posted by trondant at 6:55 AM on June 18, 2007


The answer, of course, is that if being an overprivileged rich jerk were to be made illegal, most members of the federal government would find themselves under indictment.

Hey, can you change that to "most elected members of the federal government?"
posted by Pollomacho at 6:58 AM on June 18, 2007


WRAL interview with former Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler.
posted by ericb at 7:55 AM on June 18, 2007


> Wisconsin, actually. Georgia just happens to be the woman's name.

But progressives WANT it to be Georgia instead of Wisconsin (a good, virtuous, Kerry-supporting Blue State where bad things don't happen) and hence can't be bothered to read their own link with attention. Now, back to the Tawana Brawley show.
posted by jfuller at 7:56 AM on June 18, 2007


"Pressler is the only Duke official who lost a job as a result of the case, even though an internal university investigation concluded he was the only school employee to take significant action when accusations of wrongdoing - including disorderly conduct and public urination - emerged about the lacrosse team."*
posted by ericb at 7:57 AM on June 18, 2007


“Pressler developed a reputation as a tough but fair disciplinarian, as Duke’s own investigation subsequently confirmed. To illustrate Pressler’s approach, a lacrosse player who graduated in 2006 recalled:
'During my sophomore year I was involved in an off the field incident stemming from underage drinking. Coach Pressler’s policy from the day I arrived on campus was no matter what kind of troubling situation came up he wanted to know about it before it was brought to his attention by others. I failed to follow this rule and hoped that he would not find out. When he did find out his punishment was decisive and fair. We were scheduled to travel to West Point that weekend to play the Army. I had made the travel team and was excited about the trip. My family was also coming and my father was especially looking forward to seeing West Point. Upon learning of my incident Coach Pressler pulled me aside after practice and told me to come to his office after I showered. There, he informed me that I was suspended for the Army game and that I would not be making the trip with the team. He asked me to call my dad and tell him to cancel his trip. Coach Pressler was disappointed that I had violated his trust and for weeks I could not look him in the eye without feeling ashamed of what I had done. He was upset about the incident but made more of an issue regarding my violation of his trust. I learned a valuable lesson from him.'
This discipline paid dividends, on and off the field. During Pressler’s 16 years at Duke, his players had a 100% graduation rate; between 2001 and 2005, more than half of Duke’s lacrosse players made the ACC academic honor roll—more than double the percentage of any other team in the league.

…If college coaches are to be held accountable for their players’ holding spring break parties at which lots of alcohol is consumed, there would be few, if any, college coaches left…

... Chemistry professor Steven Baldwin lamented that Pressler 'was hung out to dry by an athletics administration that neither understood the issues nor appreciated Mike Pressler the man. Long before we learn the truth about what happened that night, and long before we learn the conclusions and recommendations of the several committees formed by President Brodhead to address the situation, the athletic department convulsed and threw the baby out with the bath water.' Baldwin described the coach as 'humble, reserved, thoughtful and honest to a fault,' a man with 'great integrity' who 'wanted to win the right way, with players who were students first and athletes second-players who would be a credit to Duke University.' At the very least, Baldwin noted, Pressler deserved basic principles of due process, to have his tenure considered once the administration had access to all relevant facts.

[Duke President Richard] Brodhead should have heeded Baldwin’s advice. The Coleman Committee, in considerable detail, established that (a) in the sentiments of one administrator, there was a 'documented history that lacrosse players liked to hang out as a group and drink beer. When they were caught three or four times a year, they were disciplined, but . . . the sanctions imposed were not sufficiently severe to act as a deterrent'; (b) the Duke administration never communicated to Pressler, either orally or in writing, that it considered his players’ behavior a serious problem (a student affairs administrator, for instance, described the lacrosse players’ hangout at the Tailgate event as 'one of the most "energetic" and . . . quite entertaining'); (c) when members of the administration asked Pressler to try to modify his players’ alcohol-related behavior, he unfailingly did so, and unfailingly got results.

Even more important, the committee discovered that far from being overly loose with his team, Pressler was one of two Duke officials who did the most regarding the team’s alcohol-related offenses. According to the report, besides the 'Dean for Judicial Affairs and Coach Pressler, after he was made aware of specific incidents of misconduct, no other administrator appears to have treated the lacrosse team's disciplinary record as a matter of serious concern.'

...The Coleman Committee’s findings showed that no justification existed for Brodhead’s decision to scapegoat Pressler." *
posted by ericb at 8:37 AM on June 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


ericb, you were right and I was wrong. You've convinced me. Thanks for the effort.
posted by mediareport at 8:59 AM on June 18, 2007


Former Duke lacrosse player Reade Seligmann interviewed on NBC this morning.
posted by ericb at 9:24 AM on June 18, 2007




I don't get it... why is the University liable for what a prosecutor did?
posted by Malor at 12:45 PM on June 18, 2007


Malor writes "I don't get it... why is the University liable for what a prosecutor did?"

I think the argument is that they're liable for what they did in response to what the prosecutor did, not for what the prosecutor did.

(For example, if you prank me into thinking WWIII has started, and I respond by looting a store, I'll get in trouble. I'm not in trouble for your pranking WWIII, but for the looting I did because I believed you)
posted by Bugbread at 1:26 PM on June 18, 2007


I don't get it... why is the University liable for what a prosecutor did?

Duke University suspended Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann after their indictments (with Dave Evans having graduated). The University was ripe with "rushes to judgment," essentially "convicting" the lacrosse players for the falsely and wrongly alleged group rape. They were deemed "guilty" without a presumption of innocence.

Actions on campus, such as those of the faculty Group of 88 , the "pot bangers" and even those of Duke President Richard H. Brodhead -- who fired lacrosse coach Mike Pressler (and with whom the Duke has also settled) -- showed that the University basically abandoned three of the students in its charge. Instead of standing behind a presumption of innocence, many in the Duke community condemned the accused as being "guilty." As we now know from the State's Attorney General's investigation, these lacrosse players were/are absolutely "innocent," that there was/is no "credible evidence" of the claims of Crystal Gail Mangum, and that the "politically motivated fiasco" was the result of a "rogue prosecutor."

In the future Duke would do better to stand behind the presumed innocence of any charged student, faculty member or administrator.
posted by ericb at 2:34 PM on June 18, 2007


I don't think suspending the defendants from school after indictment was the wrong move. Duke didn't have a lot of information at that point, and it had to move to protect the student body.

The presumption of innocence only applies to criminal prosecution. Duke is free to suspend students if it believes it, say, 25% likely, given the information available, that they're rapists.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:17 PM on June 18, 2007


pot bangers

I like how the candlelight vigil people have no interest in commenting on the aftermath - stubbornly or contritely or however - after all that brouhaha about opening a dialog about race and class.

"Dialog" is all well and good when they can make true but banal and easily-chanted pronouncements on how the power structure in America is oriented towards well-heeled white men, but once we get into the complexities of an individual case, it all shuts down. Which is a shame, because it would actually be fairly interesting to hear some level-headed commentary on how this does all, in fact, loop around to being about power. It's just not the sort of case where all the details can fit on a placard. Some people don't actually want a dialog - they simply want to smugly assert that they are opposed to obviously bad things.

This case doesn't disprove anything about who's really in charge in America, but I do have my suspicions that many of those who were most vocal about those boys being guilty are now being quiet mostly because they'd have to admit that they were pawns not only to Nifong's deception, but also to their own prejudice - in addition to the fact that the politics of the case would require an actual analysis, and not simply the parroting of a few key concepts.

I would LOVE to hear one of the original protesters and/or Duke 88 professors make a public statement along the lines of, "well, I sort of figured they were guilty because I'm tired of rich white alpha males controlling everything, and c'mon, you should believe rape allegations. That's not the sort of thing people typically lie about. I may have been wrong here, and I was wrong to have publicly accused these men of things they didn't do. It hadn't really sunk in before that I could be the sort of person a politician could pander to, and besides, we were being given bad information by the prosecution, and all things considered, it's still entirely possible that something awful happened to that poor woman - just not what Nifong twisted into being, and probably not by anyone on the team. I guess in general we should all just be nice to one another, think critically, and fight injustice wherever we see it. Oh, also, it would be totally awesome if you didn't sue us."

Blarp. I can't keep from commenting on these threads. I apologize.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:42 PM on June 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


Duke is free to suspend students if it believes it, say, 25% likely, given the information available, that they're rapists.

only if that doesn't violate the contract they made with the students ... obviously it did, which is why they settled
posted by pyramid termite at 12:27 AM on June 19, 2007


"At 3.00pm, Duke—an institution known for its hard-ball tactics in dealing with lawsuits—announced a settlement with the three falsely accused players and their families. Per customary university policy, no terms were released, and both sides issued gracious statements about the dangers of false prosecution. That said, the follow-up on the previous settlements (with the Dowds and with former coach Mike Pressler) was difficult to miss.

Shortly thereafter, Paul Haagen, outgoing chair of the Academic Council, e-mailed other Council members to explain the settlement. The critical sentence: 'As a result of the settlement, all faculty have been released from any claims of liability related to the lacrosse matter up through the date of the settlement (June 18, 2007).' While the Duke administration has been unwilling to hold a segment of its faculty to minimal standards of the profession, it seems that it was willing to use University funds to protect those same faculty members from legal action. From a tactical standpoint, the decision was a wise one by the Brodhead/Steel team—any lawsuit by the three families would have been a public relations nightmare for Duke." *
posted by ericb at 8:38 AM on June 19, 2007


« Older Well, today IS Sunday   |   It pleases me... when you... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post