Friday, July 21, 2006

Talking with JinC Regulars - 7-21-06

(One of a series of posts in the original web log tradition: notes and "thinking out loud." These posts will be most easily understood by regular visitors and are But others are welcome. John)

Brain dead now. I'll get another "Talking ..." post out late tomorrow evening.

For now, I'll just pass on the email below which attorney Alex Charns sent this morning to Durham City manager Patrick Baker.

I obtained a copy this morning courtesy of Charns while I was at his office reviewing the public portions of his CrimeStoppers file. I'll be posting on that soon.

As you all know from previous JinC CrimeStoppers posts, Charns, representing an unindicted Duke Men's lacrosse player, has requested an official public apology from Durham City and Police for the creation, production and distribution of a CrimeStoppers poster telling the community the lacrosse players had committed a series of horrific felony crimes. Charns has also asked for an official investigation into how, why and by whom the poster was produced on official Durham police letterhead.

I plan to contact city manager Baker and police officials Monday to get their reaction to the email Charns sent today.

More tomorrow about other matters of interest to JinC regulars.


Subject: Request to make public personnel action under G.S.

Dear Mr. Baker:

This is a request that you make public the investigation and personnel
action, if any, taken against the police employee(s) who created and
distributed the libelous flier (on official Durham Police Department
letterhead) that offered cash for “assistance in solving this [Duke lacrosse
team] case” that impugned the entire lacrosse team with its claim that “The
victim was sodomized, raped, assaulted and robbed. This horrific crime sent
shock waves throughout our community.”

This flier was posted around the Duke campus and adjoining neighborhoods and sent by e-mail to neighborhood groups and the media.

As you know, the city manager with concurrence of the council "may inform
any person of" the "disciplinary action" taken against a city employee if
the "manager or council shall determine in writing that the release is
essential to maintaining public confidence in the administration of city
services or to maintaining the level and quality of city services."
N.C.G.S. 160A-168(c)(7).

The failure of a police employee to know the difference between an
accusation of crime and the certainty that a crime has been committed raises
serious questions about the training of your employees. The inflammatory
language of the Durham Police Department flier increased public outrage
against the 43 lacrosse players who have since been cleared by the District
Attorney of criminal wrongdoing in this matter.

The city's failure to take responsibility or apologize for accusing 43
innocent young men of heinous crimes leads one to conclude that no action
will be taken against police employees who violate their oath to serve and
protect when they fan the flames of vigilantism. In the past we saw
high-ranking Durham police officials falsely accuse their own police
employees of running a "call-girl ring" out of police headquarters and
illegally wiretap them in the process.

If you or the police department investigated how and why this libelous flier
was created and by whom, then it is in everyone's interest to make this
information public. To quote Durham Crimestopper coordinator Cpl. David
Addison's favorite Ralph Waldo Emerson adage: "There is no den in the wide
world to hide a rogue . . ."

Alex Charns

Charns & Charns Attorneys at Law
Alexander Charns - D. Tucker Charns
123 Orange Street, P.O. Box 59
Durham, N.C. 27702
Tel. 919-956-7564
Fax: 919-956-7409


Anonymous said...

Is what the attorney refers to as the libelous flier the same picture published in the N&O?

Anonymous said...

from the blog:

Posted by wumhenry
July 20, 2006 11:06 AM
During the investigation, a controversial e-mail came from the address of a team member which told teammates that he planned to tell authorities that a crime had been committed and that he knew who had done it and would turn them in. The young man denied that he had sent it, and defense attorneys believe that it was an attempted setup by police, who wanted to make the lacrosse team members nervous. The e-mail bore the subject 'sorry guys' in the subject line, and contained this message: 'I am going to go to the police tomorrow to tell them everything that I know.' The player said he was in class at the time the message was sent, although he still could have sent it from any number of wireless devices. But the source of the e-mail should be traceable. The police surely had his password and had the means and opportunity to cause mischief.">link

Why won't the North Carolina newspapers pursue leads like this?

Anonymous said...

Is the E-mail address that of the Durham PD? If not, have they worked to link the E-mail back to its sender? Whose computer ?

If its the computer of the Durham PD..shout it to the rooftops!

Anonymous said...

A Reporter's Lament

Back in early Spring
Man, my cell phone would ring!
Melanie on the line...
Dig up all you can find!
Now I'm lonely and bored
Don't get around much anymore...

Found interviews in the Hood
And quotes the kids were no good.
Ran the poster, ..remember then...
That "Swagger" headline was a gem
Now I sit here ignored.
Don't get around much anymore.

Wanted to hit City Hall
Give Pat Baker a call
One story! He said it!
But Mel says "Forget it."
What AM I here for...?
Don't get around much anymore.

Thought I'd drive round the State
Talk to other D.A.'s
"Should the line-ups be tossed?
(They were ONLY Lacrosse)
"Are you kidding?" "What for?'
Don't get around much anymore

Our blogs are loaded with questions
Leads and suggestions
Could win a Pulitzer Prize
But Mel says"No dice."
Might shake Durham to the core?
Don't get around much anymore.

See here's the real scoop
I can go after Duke
Take down out-of -town laddies
That have rich out- of -town daddies
Their misdeeds we adore
And ....go after full bore

It fit our certain world-view
Now we're in quite a stew
So we've "shut down" on this case
I spend days at MySpace
God, the truth is a bore!
Don't get around much anymore

Sundayjack said...

During the investigation, a controversial e-mail came from the address of a team member which told teammates that he planned to tell authorities that a crime had been committed and that he knew who had done it and would turn them in. The young man denied that he had sent it, and defense attorneys believe that it was an attempted setup by police, who wanted to make the lacrosse team members nervous.
I've not heard that one yet. I'm impatient. I can't wait for all of the "tell-all" books that come out of this case, filled with stories like this.

Got me to thinking, though. As much as I hate to say it, I think Nifong has taken a disproportionate share of criticism in this case. We tend to lump everything on him because of disgraceful pandering, and his fast and loose play with facts. The unfortunate by-product of focusing on Nifong is that we tend to forget that there are professional police investigators who have wildly deviated from generally recognized practices. If these lawyers didn't have clients with lives in the balance, trying this case would be great fun.

JWM said...

Anon "Is what the attorney..."

No, the CrimeStoppers posters (there were at least 4 versions on the DL case) are text except for the two versions which both include “The
victim was sodomized, raped, assaulted and robbed. This horrific crime sent
shock waves throughout our community.” One of those versions is on official Durham City Police department header stationary with a police badge photo on one side and the Durham City logo on the other side, and both superimposed against a background of the Durham City skyline.

The poster photo which appeared on Apr. 2 in the Raleigh N&O contains among other things face-photos of 43 of the white Duke lacrosse players.

Most people call the CrimeStoppers posters the "Wanted" posters and the poster the N&O published after warnings that doing so would only endanger the players "the vigilante poster" or "the N&O's wanted" poster.

Anon "from the talkleft ...."

Good memory and that matter may turn out to be a key event in establishing a chain of violations of proper investigative practices; the violations being, not Keystone cop incompetency, but deliberate actions intended to get any kind of circumstantial evidence that could be used to indict any three of the lacrosse players.

Joan on first comment

From the house tops and in a quieter voice in a hearing room where police malfeasance is being investigated. Meanwhile, we have to see if there is a DPD connection to the talkleft item.

Joan the Muse,

It's just wonderful. Do you mind if I build a post on it and alert other bloggers. I think folks like Johnsville, FODU, Betsy's Page, La Shawn etc would take a look at it.

I'll name you or not. You're call.


Nifong deserves a lot of scorn and worse but you are right: What's been directed at him is disproportionate.

He had a lot of helpers. If the Raleigh N&O which led the media coverage had presented fair, honest reporting Nifong might have slowed down and been more careful and judicious. Remember he only went public on Mar. 27 after the N&O had been hammering the players and inflaming the public for four days.

Then there is the acquiescent silence of almost all of Duke's administration and faculty in the face of grossly unfair attacks on the players.

President Brodhead was eager to issued a full, written, unconditional apology to a 911 caller he didn't even know and before the facts she alleged were confirmed (many are still in dispute)but when Nifong ridiculed the players for following advice of their counsels we heard on statement from Brodhead reminding Nifong a district attorney is not supposed to do that. In fact, none of us are. We're supposed to respect a persons right to follow advice of counsel.

Good comments from all four of you.



Anonymous said...

John, My poem is for all to use. You inspired me to begin writing. Here's to ALL involved , working to free Collin, Reade, and Dave:..." Truth is putting on it's shoes."

Anonymous said...

By the sort of fits to that old tune.."Don't get around much anymore.

Anonymous said...

Oops, me again. Yes, you may name me.

Sundayjack said...

Nifong deserves a lot of scorn and worse but you are right: What's been directed at him is disproportionate.

Hey, I have another question for the good folks down in the Durham jurisdiction: How often does District Attorney Nifong make his appearance in court? I know from reading his campaign website that he has a 25+ year career as a prosecutor, which would mean that he would have the type of trial experience where he could try this case. However, in every other jurisdiction I know, it's an extraordinary occurrence to see an elected D.A. make an appearance. When they do, it's typically only for ministerial pretrial business (which would fit here) OR sometimes they'll try a low-profile case so that they can flex their trial skills and campaign as a "professional prosecutor."

This question came to me as I was reading D.A. Nifong's head-shaking comments to the court last week about the attorneys for unindicted lacrosse players. I have a hunch that D.A. Nifong has not made his appearance in a criminal trial since being elevated to the position. Not that I need any additional reason to think that he's pandering for re-election purposes; I'm just playing a hunch.

When is the last time D.A. Nifong tried a case?

How many high-profile felonies has he tried?

How many rape or sexual assault cases has he tried? In many offices, these cases are handled by a specialized division of a D.A.'s office.

What types of cases did Mike Nifong handle when we was prosecuting cases full time?

On one other unrelated matter, I saw on D.A. Nifong's campaign website a photo of him with his loyal staff. I found this somewhat surprising, but maybe it's just me. It just struck me as strange that a staff of public employees would be adding their face to a political campaign. Not that they would support and campaign for their boss; but that they would assemble as a "D.A. staff" and pose for a campaign photo. You don't often see that; and, the reason you don't is because employees should not have to concern themselves about reprisals for refusing to pose in the campaign photo (or whatever other campaign it may be) for their boss.

That should just about do it for my Sunday afternoon of questions.

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