Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mike Nifong acknowledged inconsistencies in a stripper's story that she was raped at a Duke party but decided to move forward with the case anyway


Mike Nifong acknowledged inconsistencies in an exotic dancer's story that she was raped, beaten and sexually assaulted at a Duke lacrosse team party but decided to move forward with the case anyway, the lead investigator on the case testified Tuesday.

During an initial meeting at Nifong's office, Investigator Benjamin Himan said, he and his supervisor met with the district attorney to review the evidence and status of the case and that Nifong made a comment "to the effect, 'You know we're ******.'"

Among that evidence were search warrants, interviews with the accuser, Crystal Mangum, the second dancer and three lacrosse co-captains who lived at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd., where the March 13 party took place.

"He said it was going to be a circumstantial case - he said, she said - and that's how most rape cases are," Himan testified. "He said it was going to be hard to prove."

Nifong also insisted pressing ahead on indicting lacrosse player Reade Seligmann, even though detectives could not place him at the party at the time of the alleged incident, he testified.

"We didn't have any DNA. We didn't have him at the party," Himan said of Seligmann. "It' was a big concern to me to go for an indictment when we did not even know where he was -- if he was even there."

The testimony irritated attorneys for the lacrosse players. They said Himan's account was further proof that Nifong should have backed off the troubled case.

"When everyone who knew anything about the investigation kept saying, 'There's no evidence, slow down,' Mr. Nifong kept going forward," said Jim Cooney, who represented Seligmann. "To hear the details is just chilling."

Wrapping up more than three hours of testimony in which North Carolina State Bar prosecutors questioned him on every aspect of the investigation, Himan said he agreed with Attorney General Roy Cooper's decision to dismiss charges against Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans.

"Through interviews, it was a fact that Crystal was lying," he said "Every time she was questioned on something, she improvised it. … I don't know exactly what happened at that house, but I don't believe a sexual assault occurred."

Duke prosecutor facing disbarment


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