Panel: Disbar Prosecutor in Duke Lacrosse Case

A disciplinary committee of the North Carolina State Bar has voted to suspend the law license of Mike Nifong for his handling of the case against three Duke University lacrosse players falsely accused of rape.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

An update now on the story of District Attorney Mike Nifong and his ill-fated rape case against three Duke University lacrosse players. A disciplinary committee of the North Carolina Bar has decided to disbar Nifong. Earlier had found he had broken numerous rules of conduct and Nifong himself said he believed he should lose his license to practice law.

NPR's Adam Hochberg has been covering story and joins us now from outside the Raleigh courthouse. Adam, what exactly did the disciplinary committee decide today?

ADAM HOCHBERG: The disciplinary committee arrived at the toughest penalty that they could have against Mike Nifong. They have permanently revoked his license to practice law in North Carolina.

Just moments before they announced their verdict, the attorney for Mr. Nifong stood up in court and said that Mr. Nifong was volunteering to give up his license. He said that Mr. Nifong, who had initially fought these charges, fought the suggestion that he had violated ethics rules, he said he now realized that in fact he had done some very bad things and he said that Mr. Nifong was content to give up his license and promised that he would not appeal the decision.

ELLIOTT: Did Mr. Nifong have anything to say at the end of the proceedings today?

HOCHBERG: He did not. Other than that brief statement from his lawyer, that was all we heard from his side today. And then shortly after the decision was announced, Mr. Nifong left the courthouse. He had a car waiting for him at the curb and he pushed through a couple of reporters and television cameras that were there and he went off on his way.

ELLIOTT: The former defendants in the case - the Duke lacrosse players and their families were there in the courthouse - watching the proceedings, did they have any reaction?

HOCHBERG: Their attorneys spoke after the decision was announced and he's described the players and their families' reaction as one of relief and thankfulness.

The players had played a role in this proceeding. One of the three players who was accused, Reade Seligmann, testified in the first phase of this proceeding and talked about how being charged with rape for a crime that we now know did not ever happen, how it turned his world upside down, and how upsetting that was for him and his family.

And then in the second phase of this proceeding, the phase where the punishment was decided, we heard from parents of the other two players who were charged and they testified along similar lines, just talking about how difficult it was to be accused of a crime that they knew that they didn't commit.

ELLIOTT: Adam, you've been following this story. Do you think this is the final chapter now in this case?

HOCHBERG: Well, in fact, it's not the final chapter in this case. The lawyers who are representing the players say they have a few other things that they would like to see happen. They have suggested that they're going to ask for a federal investigation of what happened here, perhaps through the Justice Department because they're concerned that whoever replaces Mike Nifong as district attorney would not be able to do a fair investigation.

Attorneys for the players also say that there's a possibility that they may file a civil suit against Mike Nifong and try to hold him personally liable for the damage they say he did to their clients.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Adam Hochberg, thanks so much.

HOCHBERG: You're welcome.

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