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Video: District attorney Nifong's lawyer speaks

By TODAYshow.com contributor
TODAY
updated 4/6/2007 1:18:31 PM ET 2007-04-06T17:18:31

Mike Nifong, the Durham, N.C., prosecutor accused of ethics violations in his handling of the Duke lacrosse case, would probably do things differently if the allegations of rape and kidnapping came to him again.

“I believe if he handled it again, he would not make all the statements that he did,” Nifong’s attorney, David Freedman, told TODAY host Matt Lauer. The lawyer also said Nifong would handle the DNA evidence differently. He denied that Nifong pursued the case to pander to Durham’s African-American community, whose votes would help elect him as district attorney last May.

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Freedman is defending Nifong against charges brought against him by the North Carolina State Bar Association for statements he made in the early stages of the investigation of the lacrosse team and for his handling of discovery procedures and evidence. Among other things, Nifong had called the players, who were accused by one of two exotic dancers they hired to perform at a team party, “hooligans.”

The bar association is expected to issue a ruling on June 15. Nifong faces penalties ranging from a reprimand to disbarment.

“We’re still contesting whether statements he made were unethical or not, but I believe if he had it to do over again, he would not make those,” Freedman said Friday on TODAY.

“The statements he made didn’t go particularly to any of the defendants themselves. The statements he made were that he believed a crime occurred, and he was trying to solve that crime. He didn’t say that any of the three that were charged actually committed that crime, and most of the statements he made were made before any of the charges were coming forth.”

The three, Collin Finnerty, Reade Seligmann and David Evans, have maintained their innocence. Their accuser identified them from a photo lineup that included pictures of only the lacrosse team. No DNA from any of them was discovered in the rape examination of the accuser, although the DNA of other individuals was found in the panties she wore that night.

Before recusing himself from the case in January, when the ethics charges were filed, Nifong dismissed the sexual assault charges against the three but did not dismiss two other charges, including kidnapping.

Lauer asked Freedman if Nifong was pandering to African-American voters when he filed the charges and made the statements he did.

“We steadfastly deny that. At no time did he do those things to pander to the community,” Freedman said, adding that Nifong had worked 29 years as an assistant in the DA’s office and had been appointed to the district attorney’s post.

The North Carolina Attorney General’s office has taken over the investigation and is expected to rule soon on whether to continue with the case or to drop the remaining charges against the lacrosse players.

Freedman said that Nifong “has no interest at this point” in what the attorney general decides.

“He has no personal interest. He’s very professional,” Freedman said of his client. “Whatever the attorney general’s office does with the case he’s fine with. He trusts their judgment. Wait for the process to play out.”

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