Duke Prosecutor Apologizes

ByABC News
April 12, 2007, 2:30 PM

April 12, 2007 — -- Mike Nifong, the district attorney in Durham County, N.C., who was slammed for his handling of the Duke lacrosse case, today apologized to the students and said it was appropriate to drop the charges.

"To the extent that I made judgments that ultimately proved to be incorrect, I apologize to the three students that were wrongly accused," Nifong said in a statement.

Jim Cooney, a lawyer for Reade Seligmann, one of the accused, spoke to ABC News: "It's one thing to consider all the facts and then make a judgment. It's another thing altogether to not consider the facts, to not want to consider the facts, and then make a judgment based on no facts."

Earlier Nifong's lawyer told ABC News that Wednesday was a "humiliating" day for Nifong.

That's when State Attorney General Roy Cooper called Nifong a "rogue prosecutor" who had exercised more bravado than caution in pursuing three Duke lacrosse players on rape charges.

But while Nifong disagreed with those and other characterizations of his work, he took no issue with Cooper's decision to drop the case, said David Freedman, Nifong's attorney, in an exclusive interview with ABC's Law & Justice Unit.

"He has no problem at all with the dismissal of the charges," Freedman said. "He thinks it was the appropriate decision based on the careful analysis by the special prosecutors."

Freedman said it was not a sign of wrongdoing on Nifong's part that it took a year for the three men to be cleared. Many cases, including those that involve innocent defendants, often take that long to be resolved, he said.

"This case played out appropriately for the three players from Duke," Freedman said. "The process may have taken longer than they would have liked, longer than perhaps it should have. But the process worked."

Freedman wouldn't comment directly when asked what Nifong thought of the attorney general's statements, among them the suggestion that Nifong had "rushed to judgment" and failed to serve justice. He did, however, say that Nifong would have a chance to address those assertions over the course of his hearings before the North Carolina Bar Association.