Duke and Durham: The Criminal Cover-up Continues

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While the State of North Carolina continues to insist that Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans kidnapped and sexually assaulted Crystal Gail Mangum on the night/morning of March 13-14, 2006, the state actually is ignoring real crimes that its own agents and agents of the City of Durham have committed. In my articles on this case, I mostly have concentrated upon the evidence — or, better, the exculpatory evidence — that tells us that the case is a fraud.

However, I have said much less about the set of real crimes that were committed by government employees in the aftermath of the original charges. If the State of North Carolina really is interested in pursuing criminal charges against real criminals, I can lay a roadmap for these people. Granted, I have my doubts that the North Carolina authorities really are interested in investigating and prosecuting their own, but, nonetheless, I figure that it does not hurt for the readers to know about the commission of crimes, especially when they are committed by the police and prosecutors.

Obviously, space does not permit me to cover all of the crimes that the authorities committed, and I am sure that I do not know about every criminal violation of the law that occurred. I can only tell what I know, and I don’t claim to be an expert, just an interested party. Thus, I will lay out some of the actions taken by police and prosecutors that clearly are legal violations, and then let the actions speak for themselves. Whether or not the criminal authorities of the State of North Carolina care about criminal behavior by its own and are willing to tolerate it is not up to me to decide, but at least readers can be made aware of what has happened.

The reason I say that we know that this case is a criminal fraud is because of the way that the Durham police carried out the "investigation." In ordinary circumstances, when someone makes a rape charge, police do certain things. First, if it is possible to gain DNA samples, police make sure it is done. Second, if possible, police question the accuser in order to find out as much information as they can. We can say that these things were done, but, as far as I can see, the "standard" rape investigation procedures were quickly abandoned and the Durham police and DA Michael B. Nifong quickly set out on another path.

We do know from secondhand statements that police in the early morning of March 14 did not believe Mangum’s story. However, we do not have firsthand information because the tapes of police activity that morning mysteriously were erased — and, apparently, they were erased after defense attorneys had asked the court in an early hearing that they be preserved. It is clear that someone either with the Durham police or the DA’s staff (or both) did not want the information in the hands of the defense. Whoever erased the tape — and I would contend that the erasure was deliberate — committed a felony, although I doubt seriously that police and prosecutors are interested in who committed that crime.

When police investigate a rape, they will go to the scene quickly to find clues, yet we know that Durham police did not do that in this particular case. In fact, police did not even come to 610 Buchanan Avenue until 48 hours later, something that in normal circumstances would be unthinkable.

The reason is that 48 hours is a lifetime for the destruction of evidence. Thus, had a real rape occurred at that address, the perpetrators would have been hauling out the trash, and cleaning the place in order to make it more difficult for police to find anything. (It is akin to people flushing illegal drugs down the toilet when they know police are arriving.)

That was not what police found when they arrived, as the house was pretty much left as it had been right after the fateful party two days earlier. Crystal’s false nails were found in the wastebasket, which should have struck the police as strange, given that she had claimed she broke them off in a fight against three rapists. Furthermore, the three lacrosse captains who lived at the house spoke openly with police and then went to headquarters, where they gave statements — without having lawyers present.

In other words, the lacrosse captains acted as though they had nothing to hide, which should have struck the police as rather strange behavior — if, in fact, a rape really had occurred at that house. Criminals — and especially rapists — would have covered their tracks or have been evasive. Had there been sexual contact, most likely they would have claimed that whoever had the sex had done it consensually.

Instead, these young men said that nothing happened, willingly gave DNA samples, and then offered to take lie detector tests. (Police refused to give them.) The captains since have said that police then told them that they did not think anything would come from it, and no doubt the police would have realized that people who do not act guilty, people who have not tried to hide any of the "evidence," and people who cooperate voluntarily with police are not guilty.

The case should have ended right there. Police should have told the district attorney that there was no evidence for rape other than the numerous conflicting stories told by a woman whose previous criminal behavior and dishonesty were well-known to the Durham police. In most other cases, that is exactly what police would have done. (I suspect that police did inform Nifong of the dearth of evidence, but since Nifong was interested in prosecution and not the truth, at some point, it was decided to frame individuals, and there were willing accomplices at the DPD.) Instead, the Durham police at this point chose to lie; why they chose to lie is a question that has not yet been answered.

We do know that after the captains cooperated and after the non-eventful search of 610 Buchanan Avenue, police and Nifong suddenly began to declare that the lacrosse players were being uncooperative, putting up a "wall of silence." Nifong then threatened to indict all of the other white lacrosse players as accessories to rape, and the news media worshipfully documented his every word.

By then the Raleigh News & Observer had jumped in feet first. Two female reporters wrote a story "Dancer Gives Details of Ordeal" on March 26, and columnist Ruth Sheehan the next day published, "Team’s Silence is Sickening." Neither the story nor the column even were close to the truth. (I had my own reply to Sheehan’s column — and she since has published that police and Nifong misled her and has called for charges to be dropped.) At the same time, Nifong’s old boss, Judge Ronald Stephens, called for every white lacrosse player to be DNA tested, and players willingly went down to the police station to be swabbed and have their bodies checked for scratches. (The overt willingness of players to give DNA samples and to have police inspect their bodies should have been a signal to others that these were young men who had nothing to hide — something that openly clashed with the public persona that the police, Nifong, and the press were attempting to create.)

The players also had given sworn affidavits, which, legally speaking, is "coming forward." What the players had not done was to come forward with information that Nifong and the police wanted to hear. There was no "wall of silence." As we shall see, the real "blue wall of silence" has been the "blue wall of silence" that has existed in this country for years: the lies of the police.

The police had two more tricks to play, however, and one clearly crossed the line into criminal behavior. It was not enough that police were lying openly to the press; they also showed up in a Duke dormitory in an attempt to "interview" lacrosse players who did not have counsel present. By that time, all of the players had lawyers representing them, since Nifong had threatened to charge all of them with accessory to rape, a felony, so it was imperative that they hire attorneys.

But, this was a publicity stunt by the prosecution, an attempt to make the players look guilty simply by refusing to answer questions. It was not illegal, but it certainly was unethical. The crime occurred when a lacrosse player supposedly emailed his teammates to tell them that he was coming forward to testify. However, the player never sent that email. Instead, it was manufactured by another party. Was it the police? That is where the evidence points, but the "blue wall of silence" is not giving in at this point.

That should not be surprising, since manufacturing "evidence" is a felony, as is obstruction of justice. But, the police and Nifong were not done committing crimes. After obtaining identifications from Crystal of the "rapists" in a session that violated state and City of Durham policies, Nifong then did two very questionable things.

First, after having declared that dangerous rapists were on the loose, Nifong then held onto the IDs for two weeks instead of making immediate arrests of these "dangerous rapists." This was not an oversight. Had he immediately arrested Seligmann, Finnerty, and Evans, they could have demanded a preliminary hearing in which the prosecution would have been forced to show its evidence that would justify taking the case to the grand jury.

Second, within a few days after Mangum had chosen her "rapists," Nifong knew that he had none of the DNA "evidence" that he had claimed the tests would produce. (In his request for the court order, he declared that DNA would identify who was guilty and eliminate who was innocent. When both the state and private labs came up snake eyes, he suddenly decided that DNA did not matter.) He also knew that public knowledge of the DNA information that he did have would sink his case publicly. Thus, he secretly conspired with Brian Meehan, who directed a private lab that tested the DNA samples, to withhold a large amount of exculpatory evidence.

I have dealt with this information before, but this time I wish to deal with the criminal element tied in with Nifong’s decisions. Withholding evidence in North Carolina is a crime, and conspiring to withhold evidence simply adds to the list. Moreover, if federal authorities did wish to investigate, the DNA conspiracy alone would permit a U.S. attorney to pile on several crimes.

(As my readers know, I have been very critical of federal criminal law and am not endorsing such action. However, as one who has become quite familiar with how the federal criminal system works, I also know that if a federal prosecutor actually wishes to indict Nifong and some of the others, he or she can do so without much difficulty. Federal conspiracy laws alone would present opportunities for indicting not only Nifong, but his investigator, Linwood Wilson, and a number of Durham police officers.)

There are other crimes, however, and they don’t just involve Nifong. As I pointed out earlier, the "rape" investigation clearly was carried out in a haphazard fashion in large part, I believe, because police knew there had been no rape and simply were trying to find a way to frame people. There are a number of things that lead me to believe this is the case.

Some are little details, but still important. For example, Mangum’s stripping partner, Kim Roberts-Pittman, called 911 from the party with her cell phone to claim that she and someone else were simply walking by the house on Buchanan Avenue when some white males started yelling racial slurs at them. That was not true, and police that night found out who made the call.

Yet, two weeks later, Kammie Michaels, the DPD public affairs officer, still was claiming that the origin of the call was unknown. Nifong, too, was making the same claim. It was obvious why Nifong and Michael were trying to promote the lie: they were trying to paint a picture of racist animals verbally abusing blacks and, thus, it would be more believable to claim that these out-of-control young, white athletes also were a pack of rapists.

(Michaels is well-known in Durham as an "anti-rape" activist, and many of the so-called rape crisis groups have been at the forefront of insisting that the three young men actually raped Mangum, despite the lack of any evidence. In my conversations with some of these activists, they all insist that "something happened," and since "something happened," then a rape must have been that "something." It is clear that they operate from an ideological perspective that does not require evidence.)

Perhaps the biggest red flag of criminality with the police came with the 33-page, single-spaced "report" that Sgt. Mark Gottlieb, the original rape "investigator" leaked to the New York Times in the late summer of 2006. It is clear that the "report" was written in an attempt to fill in the numerous gaps in Mangum’s testimony and Nifong’s early statements. (A number of writers, including me, tore into the article last summer, and even the Times has been running away from it ever since. No one in authority takes Gottlieb’s report seriously, anymore.)

But even though Gottlieb’s report will never be taken seriously in a trial, nonetheless it represents yet another criminal moment on behalf of the Durham police. This was a blatant attempt to manufacture inculpatory evidence, and manufacturing evidence is a felony. Gottlieb was able to do so because he knew that Nifong supported his actions and that he would not have to worry about facing legal consequences, since Nifong controlled the indictment process in Durham. (The leaking of the report was a direct violation of the gag order that Judge Kenneth Titus had laid on the prosecution and defense, but Titus apparently only believed that the defense actually should be gagged and gave the prosecution a "get out of jail for free" card, doing nothing and asking no questions.)

Nifong left his biggest crime at the end, once again having Mangum to change her story to fit yet a new time line. As Duke Law Professor James Coleman declared, Nifong was "mooning the system" with his latest claims. Within a month, Nifong would abandon his efforts, as even the North Carolina Bar Association had heard enough and charged Nifong with a number of violations of its legal code.

In conclusion, I cannot emphasize enough that the State of North Carolina, which still officially is trying to throw the three lacrosse players into prison for half a century, continues to ignore real live crimes that its agents committed during this sorry affair. The North Carolina NAACP continues to demand prosecution and a scalp, and few politicians are willing to speak out against this travesty.

Should any of us need proof that governments are full of liars and criminals, all one has to do is to look at the infamous Duke Lacrosse Case. This provides Exhibit A, B, C, and the rest of the alphabet. Thus, the State of North Carolina continues to seek wrongful imprisonment of innocent people, but protects the criminals in its own ranks.

It is bad enough that the State of North Carolina still should be seeking wrongful convictions and imprisonment, but when it ignores the crimes that its agents have committed, that tells us that "justice" is completely turned upside down, and that the state no longer is an entity that has any right to dispense "justice." We now officially have the Alice-in-Wonderland state in which the accused are innocent, but the accusers are the criminals. While state authorities would like for us to believe that only Nifong has committed "questionable" acts, we can see that the criminal conspiracy runs much deeper than a rogue prosecutor. Much deeper.

February 16, 2007

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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