Sunday, April 20, 2008

If Nifong's not involved before Mar. 26, then what?

Readers Note: When I refer in this post to the Durham Police Department, I have in mind only certain police officers and their supervisors up the chain of command to Deputy Police Chief Ron Hodge and the Chief during the Duke lacrosse frame-up attempt, Steve Chalmers, now retired.


At the trial that led to his disbarment, Mike Nifong testified he first learned of the Duke lacrosse case late on the afternoon of Mar. 23, 2006 when he discovered the signed NTO on his office copier. He said he told Durham Police on Mar. 24, a Friday, that he’d be handling the case and arranged to meet with the two DPD case investigators the following Monday, Mar. 27.

Nifong testified to no other involvement in the case between his Mar. 24 phone call and the Mar. 27 meeting with the DPD investigators, Sgt. Mark Gottlieb and Inv. Ben Himan.

But Raleigh News & Observer columnist Ruth Sheehan says on Mar. 26 someone(s) at the N&O passed information to her from Nifong which she then used as the basis for her column the next day. ( for more on Nifong serving as an N&O anonymous news source, see posts here and here)

An astute, frequent commenter who’s followed the case closely recently said he agreed Mike Nifong was involved in the case on Mar. 26 but not before.

With all respect to the commenter, while I can’t yet prove Nifong was involved before Mar. 26, I feel certain he was.

But in this post I want to consider some of what it means if, in fact, Nifong had no other involvement in the case before Mar. 26 than what he testified to at his trial.

Again, I don’t believe that, but let’s consider some of what it means if he didn’t.

It means first and most important we have to ask who was running things between Mar. 14 when Crystal Mangum first began telling her wildly improbable and self-contradictory lies and Mar. 25 when the N&O published a story it said was about a night which ended in “sexual violence” and Duke’s President Richard Brodhead issued the first of his public statements in which he withheld the extensive and irrefutable information he had concerning the lacrosse players’ cooperation with police.

On Mar. 14 and perhaps even for a portion of Mar. 15, both the Duke University Police Department and DPD were conducting investigations.

But by Mar. 16 and thereafter through Mar. 25, DPD was running the case.

Now allow that for at least part of the time beginning on Mar. 16 DPD was conducting a legitimate police investigation. Yes, by Mar. 16 the evidence was overwhelming that there were no crimes committed as alleged by Mangum. And the evidence of innocence grew stronger as the days past.

But for the sake of fairness and to remove any grounds for disagreement with what I’ll say in the next paragraph, I’ll concede that for a portion of the time period we’re considering a legitimate police investigation was taking place.

However, by Mar. 24 DPD was working against the real evidence it had, lying in documents it presented to Judge Stephens to support the NTO, and making false statements to the press and public to hide the absence of real evidence, support the manufacturing of bogus evidence, and trash and intimidate the lacrosse player.

There’s only one proper description for what DPD was doing: frame-up attempt.

And that was on Mar. 24.

So if, except for his phone call that day to arrange the Mar. 27 meeting, Nifong had no involvement in the case before Mar. 26, then he didn’t conceive and launch the frame-up attempt. It was already well underway before Nifong “came on board.”

If you haven’t done so recently, take another look here at the N&O’s Mar. 25 story about what the N&O said was a young black mother’s “ordeal” which ended in “sexual violence.”

The major, and almost entirely bogus, elements of the public part of the frame-up attempt which Nifong began shilling on Mar. 27 – the player’s refusal to cooperate, the “authorities” determination to crack their “wall of solidarity,” the players racial animus, their excessive drinking, etc., etc - are all in that story which was put to bed on Mar. 24.

So if Nifong didn’t get involved before Mar. 26, who in DPD gave the OK for the frame-up attempt: both its evidence suppression/manufacturing and lying “investigative” part and its carefully scripted, false and racially inflammatory public part?

One thing's certain: there’s no way Sgt. Gottlieb, even with the support of his immediate supervisors, could have taken the frame-up attempt as far forward and as public as it was on Mar. 24 without the approval of DPD supervisors at the highest level.

That means that then DPD Chief Chalmers, or in Chalmers’ absence (he was often absent; his mother’s illness was given as the reason) Deputy Chief Hodge, or more likely both approved what DPD did.

It’s also very possible Chalmers and/or Hodge “reviewed” what DPD was doing with Durham City Manager Patrick Baker. How much the “review” included of what was really going on is another matter.

The explanation most often given for the frame-up attempt is that Nifong wanted to win a hotly contested primary and used the Duke lacrosse case to stir racial animosity and gain the support of the black community.

But if Nifong didn’t really get involved in the case until Mar. 26, then he didn’t conceive the frame-up or set it in motion. He simply took over from DPD the framing attempt it had conceived and was carrying out.

To wrap up: I’m confident Nifong was involved before Mar. 26, but if he wasn’t, then the most commonly held explanation for the frame-up attempt falls apart; and we must ask ourselves why DPD conceived and carried the framing attempt as far as it did without Nifong ever being involved.


wayne fontes said...

The first paragraph after the line should read March 26th John.

JWM said...

To Wayne,

Thanks for noting the errors.

They're fixed now.

How's the case looking to you?

Again, thanks.


kbp said...

Thanks John

If by chance I'm the "frequent commenter who’s followed the case closely recently said he agreed Mike Nifong was involved in the case on Mar. 26 but not before..." OOPS!

I recall my comment that resembled that anyway. I'll claim ignorance as my defense!

I also recall thinking about the earlier date Mikey had signed the subpoena to obtain the records from the Sane Exam when I posted my comment.

I agree Mikey was involved by the 24th(?) (trusting you on that date without checking).

Somebody allowed Gottlieb to re-open the rape investigation back on the 16th. I have seen nothing that indicates Mikey was involved then, and it's clear someone allowed such to happen.

Hopefully all the truth will come out before this is over.