Obama: Investigate Duke Lacrosse DA Nifong

ByABC News
March 25, 2007, 10:04 PM

March 25, 2007 — -- Another voice has joined the call for a federal investigation into the handling of the Duke Lacrosse case -- this one with the punch of presidential politics.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in a written response to a constituent, said that an "independent inquiry is needed" into the conduct of Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong.

Nifong prosecuted and led the investigation into the alleged sexual assault of an exotic dancer at a lacrosse team party in March 2006.

Obama cited the fact that Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., has already asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for a federal investigation into Nifong's conduct. ABC News has learned that similar requests have been made by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., and Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla.

According to Obama's letter, Jones asked Gonzales to "review new evidence that Mr. Nifong withheld exculpatory DNA results from the defendants in order to determine if his conduct has illegally denied the students their civil rights as U.S. citizens under federal law."

Obama said of the call for a federal investigation that he "will be following its progress closely."

When approached by ABC News, Nifong attorney David Freedman seemed unconcerned by Obama's stance and said there is no need for a federal inquiry.

"The state bar is conducting a very thorough investigation into all aspects of Mr. Nifong's handling of the case," Freedman told ABC News. "It's appropriate for this to be dealt with by a North Carolina agency, not by someone from another state. I do not see the need for any other agency becoming involved at this point."

Defense attorneys for the Duke Lacrosse players say Nifong withheld and lied about key evidence in the case -- specifically, evidence that DNA from four to nine unidentified men was found on the accuser's body and clothing.

No DNA from the accuser's rape kit was found to match samples provided from 46 members of the lacrosse team.

The North Carolina Bar filed a complaint against Nifong for violating the rules of professional conduct by allegedly withholding evidence, lying to a sitting judge and to bar investigators, and making inappropriate comments about the case in press interviews.