Saturday, March 15, 2008

Cabbie’s truth-telling honored

In today’s Durham Herald Sun:

Moezeldin Elmostafa is elated beyond expression. He has risen from the humiliation of being the cabbie who became collateral damage in the politically motivated Duke lacrosse case to being anointed an American hero.

Reader's Digest has named Elmostafa its 2008 Hero of the Year. He was selected by thousands of readers in an online contest sponsored by the popular, folksy magazine that has more than 40 million U.S. readers. …

"I feel great about it. I really feel good," said Elmostafa. The Sudanese immigrant and co-owner of On Time Taxi said he couldn't have entertained a dream of this uniquely American miracle story when he immigrated here in 1999. …

Reader's Digest profiled the 40-year-old Elmostafa and his travails in its November edition, and the ordeal struck a national nerve.

To recap, he was the taxi driver who picked up Duke lacrosse player Reade Seligmann and a friend on March 14, 2006, from an off-campus lacrosse party at 610 N. Buchanan Blvd. He took them to an ATM, a fast-food restaurant and then to a campus dorm.

The late-night fare provided Seligmann, who was falsely accused along with two teammates of raping a stripper who performed at the party, with an ironclad alibi.

Shortly thereafter, Elmostafa was arrested on a 2003 warrant charging him with shoplifting at Hecht's department store at Northgate Mall. A woman who got a ride in his taxi had been charged and later pleaded guilty to stealing handbags.

Defense lawyers and lacrosse case observers accused District Attorney Mike Nifong -- who was later disbarred as a rogue prosecutor for his misadventures in the lacrosse case and spent a night in jail -- of attempting to shake down Elmostafa with the old warrant.

District Judge Ann McKown found the cabbie not guilty at trial for lack of evidence linking him to the crime. ….
The rest of the H-S story is here.

Reporter Dan Way interviewed Elmostafa not only about his witness for Seligmann and subsequent arrest and trial, but about his wife and children back in Sudan who’ll come to America once Elmostafa earns American citizenship, something that he expects to happen soon.

It will be a pleasure to say to him: “Congratulations on your citizenship. I’m glad you live here in Durham.”

Some time back, author Joan Collins paid tribute to Elmostafa in a Profile in Courage post hosted a Friends of Duke University. It’s well worth reading by yourself or with a child you want to help learn about right and good people.

Liestoppers has a tribute post. It includes a picture of Elmostafa at his trial with two uniformed Durham Police officers sitting menacingly in the background. (Inv. Himan on the left; Ofc. Clayton on the right as you look at the picture)

The reason why the officers were at the trial has never been explained.

The Reader's Digest story about Elmostafa is here.

And this from
“Moezeldin is the quintessential hero,” said Reader’s Digest Editor-in-Chief, Peggy Northrop. “He selflessly stood his ground because he wanted the truth to prevail.”

Elmostafa’s photo and story are included in the April issue of Reader’s Digest, which will be on newsstands on March 18.


Anonymous said...

Is it too late for the hero to sue Nifong, Durham and the cops?

JWM said...

To Anon @ 9:20 pm,

You ask a question to which I can't respond with a definite and correct answer.

The best I can offer is what I've heard from attorneys: At this point you can't rule out the possibility he'll have cause to bring a suit.

A lot will depend on whether he and those who would represent him learn more about why he was arrested and tried.

If it looks like he might have cause for action, it will still be an uphill climb because, according to the attorneys, courts and juries usually lean in favor of police and prosecutors.


Anonymous said...

His attorneys should get the case into federal court, if possible. It certainly looks like malicious prosecution.