Duke Prosecutor Nifong Preps for His Own Trial

Disgraced Duke prosecutor could face a suspended license, or disbarment.

ByABC News
April 30, 2007, 8:40 AM

April 30, 2007 — -- The three Duke lacrosse players once charged with rape are off the hook. But the man who brought the case against them, Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong, faces a trial of his own in June.

The North Carolina Bar Association has charged Nifong with mishandling the Duke case, violating rules of ethical conduct by withholding evidence, lying to a judge and making inappropriate comments about the case to the press.

Even Nifong's friends expect the punishment to be severe -- anything from suspended his law license to permanent disbarment. Either way, Nifong would lose his seat as district attorney.

"Given the climate, the way the AG came out I can't envision a scenario where he doesn't end up losing his license or having it suspended," said Bob Nauseef, a criminal defense lawyer in Durham.

Nauseef, who has been in touch with Nifong over the past week, says the district attorney is focused on preparing his defense. Even so, Nifong is mindful of the fact that he could soon be out of a job.

"There are wheels in motion for life after the DA's office, if not life after the law," Nauseef told ABC News.

"He's got some other things in the hopper. I've heard he's looking at teaching jobs. It wouldn't surprise me if he wrote a book."

"He'll be prepared to deal with any outcome that comes from the Bar," Nifong's lawyer David Freedman told ABC News. "That being said, he's a fighter."

Defense attorneys for the accused Duke players and other critics began questioning Nifong's actions after the Duke case first emerged in March 2006. By January 2006 the State Bar had charged Nifong with "conduct that involves dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation" and "conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice."

Months later, during an April 11 press conference marking an end to the Duke lacrosse case, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper called Nifong an overreaching "rogue prosecutor" who displayed "bravado" in a "rush to condemn."

Nauseef saw the attorney general's comments as overly harsh -- a move to curry political support and popularity.

"I agree that there were mistakes made, but I was pretty surprised by the strength of what they came out with," Nauseef said.

"It was pretty scathing. It's politics."