Motion Asks Judge To Hold Nifong In Criminal Contempt Of Court

Friday, June 22nd 2007, 4:08 pm
By: News On 6

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) _ Attorneys for three Duke lacrosse players who were falsely accused of rape asked a judge Friday to hold the prosecutor in the case in criminal contempt of court.

Mike Nifong ``personally engaged in a pattern of official prosecutorial misconduct, which violated at least a dozen laws, rules and court orders designed to protect due process and the pursuit of truth,'' the attorneys wrote in their request.

They wrote that the scope of Nifong's misconduct ``shocks the conscience and defies any notion of accident or negligence.''

A disciplinary committee of the North Carolina State Bar disbarred Nifong on June 16. He has submitted his resignation as Durham County's district attorney.

The request was filed to Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III. Smith oversaw two hearings last year during which Nifong answered questions about critical DNA test results ordered by his office.

The tests identified genetic material from several men _ but no members of the lacrosse team _ in the accuser's underwear and body. Nifong knew about those test results in April 2006, but didn't give the information to defense attorneys for more than six months. Even then, it came in the form of nearly 2,000 pages of raw data that took a defense attorney dozens of hours to decipher.

Nifong ``told multiple different stories about what he knew, when he knew it, and why the evidence was withheld,'' the defense request said.

Last year, Nifong unrelentingly pursued an investigation into a woman's claim she was raped at a lacrosse team party where she had been hired as a stripper. He won indictments against Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and Dave Evans for rape, kidnapping and sexual offense.

He eventually recused himself after being charged with several ethics violations, and state prosecutors later declared the three players innocent.

Nifong was replaced this week by his predecessor, Jim Hardin, who will lead the office temporarily until Gov. Mike Easley appoints a permanent replacement.