Tuesday, June 26, 2007

INNOCENT: Nifong’s “f” & Sgt. Shelton

"... these three individuals [David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann,] are innocent of these charges."

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, Apr. 11, 2007

During the NC State Bar trial that resulted in Mike Nifong’s disbarment, Durham Police Investigator Benjamin Himan, a lead investigator of a case involving the attempted framing of three Duke students, testified he told Nifong on March 27, 2006 that he was concerned about the lack of evidence supporting claims by Crystal Mangum that she’d been beaten and gang-raped by three members of the Duke lacrosse team.

Himan said Nifong responded with: “You know we’re f …ed.”

Nifong’s testimony concerning the “f” part of the March 27 meeting directly contradicts Himan’s testimony.

Let’s look at the contradiction, after which I’ll offer some comments and invite yours.

What follows is an excerpt from the State Bar Deposition posted at Liestoppers.com. Nifong is being questioned about the March 27 meeting by State Bar attorney Doug Brocker. I’ve inserted a few italicized parentheticals for clarity.

Q. Do you remember making any comments ( at the March 27 meeting )about the case or the investigation or anything else?

A. No, sir, not at that time.

Q. I'm going to have to use his language because it's exact. But in -- do you remember making a comment in that meeting to the effect in talking about this case and what had happened up to this point, I think the exact quote was, "We're f.. ked"?

A. No, sir. I actually am aware -- well, let me say this I don't recall ever making that statement, but on the other -- at the same time, would say that it's not a statement that I can have tell you that I wouldn't have made. I mean, it certainly is possible that I said something.

But my -- my recollection is that that statement would have been made at a later time and in reference to some things that had been written by - had been put in a report by another officer. Some things had been stated by another officer, specifically, Officer Shelton, who was the first officer who arrived on the scene at the Kroger ( the night of March 13/14 ), did not believe that anything had occurred other than it was a drunk victim, and she ( Crystal Mangum ) did not -- I believe -- as my recollection is, that she didn't make any statements about having been sexually assaulted at the time she spoke with him. That subject came up at the Durham Access Center.

So he thought he was dealing with someone who was impaired and uncooperative, and that that was all he was dealing with. And he made some statements publicly later on to other members of the police department, and some of those statements at some point got into -- was asked about them by sources outside, and, you know, I might very well have said, and this is the kind of stuff that, you now, really screws up or f..ks up an investigation. And, you know, this is -- this is not something that he should be saying.

Q. So if you made a comment or a similar comment, it would have been about what was in Shelton's report and comments that he made?

A. I think it would have probably been before I even saw his report, but just based on what heard that he was saying, that he was making comments publicly within the department that there was nothing to this. So he was, to my knowledge, the only officer who had reached that conclusion.

Q. Do you recall any general time frame for when he was making those comments or when you were asked about them?

A. No, sir. I mean, it would have been fairly early on, but probably not even the first week. [. . .]

How did you like Nifong’s answer when Brocker asked him if he’d made the “f” statement?

No, sir. I actually am aware -- well, let me say this I don't recall ever making that statement, but on the other -- at the same time, would say that it's not a statement that I can have tell you that I wouldn't have made. I mean, it certainly is possible that I said something.
No, he didn’t say it. Well, he doesn’t recall it. But he can’t tell Brocker that he “wouldn’t have made” it. It’s certainly possible he said something.

I bet I know what most of you are thinking: Nifong’s trying to give himself all kinds of “wiggle room” in case other testimony and evidence confirms what Himan testified he said to Nifong and what Nifong said in response on March 27, 2006.

That’s my take on it, too.

The “Officer Shelton” Nifong scapegoats for his “f” comment is Sergeant John Shelton, a veteran and well-respected DPD officer.

Nifong says of Shelton: “So he thought he was dealing with someone who was impaired and uncooperative, and that that was all he was dealing with.”

Yes, that’s just what Shelton thought; and he was right.

And BTW - Nifong’s suggestion that Shelton was the one DPD officer last March expressing disbelief in the hoax is “a crock.” I didn’t talk to an officer then and haven’t since who off the record hasn’t said it was “a crock,” often in language much stronger than that.

That shouldn’t surprise anyone. What police officer would believe three strong, young male athletes and one “petite, soft-spoken” woman could all fit in a tiny bathroom; then engage in a brutal, thirty minute battle during which the woman fought for her life as she was strangled and repeatedly raped; and at the end of all that everyone would walk out of the bathroom with no severe fractures or bruising, etc.?

It’s a mark of Nifong’s current desperation that he would attack Shelton for expressing last March what was no more than the simple truth.

It’s also very disingenuous because Nifong knows the most important “statements” Shelton made which hurt Nifong’s “investigation” were not Shelton’s expressions of disbelief in the hoax, but Shelton’s actions in the early morning hours of March 14 and the actions of Shelton’s backup, DPD Officer Willie Barfield.

As veteran police officers, Shelton and Barfield know about the kinds and severity of physical injuries a woman suffers when she’s brutally beaten and raped by even one strong young man, to say nothing of being brutally beaten and raped by three strong young men. Like all DPD officers they're trained to administer emergency first aid to victims of such horrific crimes while they await the arrival of the EMS ambulance and emergency medical assistance.

Shelton and Barfield knew Mangum had suffered no such injuries and needed no emergency medical assistance. She hadn’t even suffered slight injuries.

Had Shelton seen any signs of injuries when he first came upon Mangum “passed out drunk,” he would have arranged for her to be taken immediately to Duke Hospital, which is less than a mile from the Kroger parking lot.

But Shelton saw no evidence of any physical injuries. That’s why he arranged for Officer Barfield to take Mangum to Durham Access, which provides short-term domicile and “support services” for substance abusers.

Barfield only later took Mangum from Durham Access to Duke Hospital after she said at Access she’d been raped.

From the moment he heard what Shelton and Barfield had done, Nifong understood their actions provided extremely significant and irrefutable evidence that a brutal beating and gang-rape DID NOT take place at the party.

I’m looking forward to the time an attorney, hopefully a prosecutor, has Nifong under oath and asks: “Mr. Nifong, why do you criticize Sgt. Shelton for what he said? Wasn’t it really his actions that night that made clear Mangum’s claims were gross frauds? And yours, too?”

Your turn, folks.


Anonymous said...

It is ludicrous for Nifong to think that an eyewitness would not talk to his peers about such an explosive story. Furthermore, the investigation left no stone unturned and may have turned some stones over illegally(i.e. the email and getting into the dorm). Shelton's "public talking" did not hinder the investigation at all. The point is that with much of the defense's hand now played and the players alibis known etc. Nifong could not now create a plausible scenario that would exonerate him for fear that whatever he says will be contradicted by some evidence that has not yet been released. He is a blind man swinging wildly. I hope this ends soon because it is so one sided it is getting painful to watch. I wish Nifong would just throw himself at the mercy of the court.

Brant Jones

Anonymous said...

Would love to hear Nifong try and crab walk around that one

scott said...

Brant Jones at 11:16 AM --

"I hope this ends soon because it is so one sided it is getting painful to watch."

I hope it doesn't end anytime soon. In my book it's not anywhere near painful enough. For what Nifong has suffered so far, I figure he's up to March 15, 2006 of the hoax. He needs to keep paying until we get up to April 11, 2007 (the date Cooper declared the 3 innocent).

I figure to do that, he needs to pay a bunch of $ and spend time in the graybar hotel.

Several others, including Mangum, too.

Anonymous said...

There is a mystery to Nifong. People don't spend their lives being honest, good public servants and "suddenly" become self-serving traitors. There's a huge character disconnect here. Some good Bob Woodward type should keep looking deeper.

Meanwhile, I agree that it is almost public torture to watch this unfold. But isn't that what Nifong intended for the three guys? In some circles, we call it the "Hamen Noose". He's being hung on the scaffold that was prepared for the innocent. He built it himself. He hung himself. Nobody did it to him but himself. Should we pity him? Yes. Should we absolve him? NO!