An Open Letter to Michael Nifong

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Hello, Mike. Had I written this open letter last summer, I doubt you would have heard of me, but my sources in Durham (and they are good sources, Mike) tell me that I pretty much am on your enemies list. I’m glad I could accomplish that feat, but from what I can tell, that list is getting longer while we speak.

However, in this letter, I come to you in peace. I’m offering you advice, good advice, I might add, and if I were you, I would take it. Don’t get me wrong. I really hope that you not only lose your law license and your job, but since you were trying to take away the lives of three young men who had committed no crimes, I do hope that you have the opportunity to do a stretch in prison, or at least have to face that horrifying prospect. After all, there are people in this country who belong behind bars, and you are one of them.

But even though I want you to go to prison, I am going to offer you advice that I think very well not only could keep you out of what Lew Rockwell calls the crowbar motel, but also could save your career. Think about that, Mike. I am trying to help you keep your law license, your freedom, and maybe even your job, so you need to listen to me.

The first and most important thing is that you need to drop the kidnapping and sexual assault charges against Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans. I mean drop the charges the way that Duke University receivers drop passes at crucial times during a close football game. Those charges need to disappear, and fast, for if you insist on pushing them forward, it only will get worse for you.

As I give you this advice, let me caution you not to listen to people like Wendy Murphy. She has been on television championing your cause, and wrote this abomination of an op-ed for USA Today that declared your dropping the rape charges, but keeping the others, to be a "brilliant move." Trust me, Mike; you don’t want Murphy being your only cheerleader, for I can give you a list of law-abiding and respectable people who would refuse to spit on her grave only because they hate standing in long lines.

No, listen to me. Dropping those charges leads to my second point. For the past nine months, you have been telling the world you had a great case. Last spring, while reading something by your political allies, I saw where you had a "mountain of physical evidence" that pointed toward those three men having committed what the black journalist Cash Michaels called a "brutal rape."

As you know, that mountain never was on your side; it was on the other side. My guess is that you had that figured out the minute you spoke to Brian Meehan of the DNA lab last April (before you secured the indictments against Reade and Collin), as he gave you the bad news that the only thing DNA was going to do would be to further discredit Crystal and, by definition, your case.

That is when you made your biggest mistake. You lied, and then tried to cover the lie, and when you were caught, you gave a litany of excuses that rivals anything John Belushi would have given in one of his movies. Despite Murphy’s contention that you simply were trying to protect the "privacy" of the unindicted lacrosse players, reason tells the rest of us that you were not too worried about protecting people whom you publicly had labeled "hooligans" and "rapists."

Mike, I can assure you that Judge W. Osmond Smith III was not taken in by your various excuses that range from "I didn’t know" to "the dog ate my homework" to "no harm, no foul." Maybe another judge might have looked the other way before this case became The Story nationally. When the Los Angeles Times is writing editorials calling for your head on a platter, you have to understand that this no longer is a Durham case. It is a national case, and you cannot stuff that thing back into your little jurisdiction.

Thus, literally everything you bring into that courtroom on February 5 is going to undergo scrutiny from every news outlet and every legal analyst in the country, not to mention overseas. Believe me, that is not something you want to happen, as the outright dishonesty of your "evidence" is going to be hung out for the world to see. It is one thing for that to happen in the current arena dominated by writers and talking heads, where nothing official has happened.

However, once you put this dreck before a judge, and the court gets to see exactly what your "evidence" really is, you are going to be in much more trouble than you are now. At this moment, you still are guilty only of "bad judgment." If you walk into that courtroom with your witness in tow, your "investigators," and your "medical evidence" (or, better put, your medical non-evidence), at that point you are going to be seen as the D.A. who has perpetrated a fraud. At that point, Mike, you will have openly committed a crime for which will make you vulnerable to spending time in the crowbar motel. That is fraud, Mike, and I am using that term in the legal sense.

There is a way out. You can go to the courthouse today — right now, I urge you — and make the following declaration:

I am announcing today that I have dropped all charges against Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans. There will be no further charges, and no more investigations of the alleged events that occurred on March 13 and 14, 2006.

At the time the accuser made the charges, my conversations with police officers led me to believe there had been a rape and sexual assault of the woman in question. As a prosecutor, I was duty-bound to investigate and the information that police gave me was of the type that required me to pursue this case and seek the indictments.

However, after further examination of the charges, I no longer can conclude that they are credible, and if I am not sure myself of the credibility of the accusations, by law I cannot further pursue this matter in a court of law. From the start, I have made it clear that this office takes rape allegations seriously, and we will investigate those allegations.

I do regret any actions I took which might have appeared to be overzealous, but at no time did I act against the letter or spirit of the law. While I take responsibility for mistakes that I might have made during this episode, let me assure all of you that those mistakes were made in the pursuit of what I thought was a just course of action.

Granted, about everything I have written for you is a lie, but since you already have lied repeatedly as an officer of the court, one more lie won’t hurt you, especially since it will have been told in the course of your ending this legal fraud. After all, you did not make the initial rape allegations; it was a woman with a history of drug abuse, prostitution, and mental problems (she was hospitalized in 2005 for those). She was trying to keep from being involuntarily committed to a mental institution when she made the charges, and that hardly was your fault.

But if you drop the charges with the above declaration, you have something you can bring to the representatives of the North Carolina Bar Association, who already have summoned you to appear before an investigative body. You can claim you were trying to make sure that a possible rape victim who is black and poor would receive justice. You can claim you were overzealous, but sincere in your actions.

(You might even try to repeat some of the acting talent you showed when you demonstrated on national television the alleged choke hold that the accused put on the woman. You sure were convincing when the cameras were on you.)

If the members of the legal cartel — I mean, your fellow attorneys of this august body — act within their usual scope of things, you might just get off with a reprimand, provided you have not tried to bring a lying accuser, lying police officers, and anyone else who would be torn apart by defense attorney, into a court of law. If you go that far, you can bet that the authorities will have no choice but to throw you to the wolves.

Remember, there are prosecutors in North Carolina who tried to get someone executed, even though they had exculpatory evidence in their possession (which they failed to give to the defense of Alan Gell). They got off with bare reprimands, and both of them are gainfully employed in the law. You might want to speak to David Hoke and Debra Graves about how to grovel in front of the Bar Association investigative committee, so that you, too, can get your free get-out-of-jail card.

Above all, Mike the key is dropping these charges now. Take my advice, please. I may not like you, but I believe that it would be best for everyone involved if you were to punt, including you. If you refuse to take my advice and continue this fraud, then people who have some authority over you are going to dismiss the charges, and then they will deal with you. Mike, you have an opportunity to see that this humiliating experience does not happen, and I recommend that you take the proper course of action today.

December 29, 2006

William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

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