March 27, 2007

Right thinkin editorial seeks the truth

Rogue Prosecutors: Mike Nifong, the poster child for misusing the justice system for a personal agenda, may soon get his comeuppance, his targets freed. Sadly, the same can't yet be said of Patrick Fitzgerald and Johnny Sutton.

Paul Caulfield, a writer for Inside Lacrosse Magazine, told Fox News last week that several sources had told him the three Duke lacrosse players charged with rape, assault and kidnapping charges will soon be freed with all charges dropped. We welcome the result and are not surprised by it.

We also won't be surprised or disappointed if the life of Durham, N.C., District Attorney Nifong soon becomes a legal hell, with lawsuits filed by the families, disbarment by the North Carolina State Bar or even worse.

In the spring of 2006, Nifong was facing a difficult primary in a racially divided electorate. He trailed in the polls and his campaign was so short of funds he had to personally loan it $30,000.
Then, in the middle of March, an "entertainer" at a party held by members of the Duke lacrosse team handed Nifong a political gift — a case of an African-American woman charging three well-off white college kids with rape and sexual assault.

Nifong would milk the case for all it was worth, making unprecedented public and racially inflammatory declarations of the three accused players' guilt. This came as the case unraveled from the start, with the accuser telling several versions and a DNA test that by itself was exculpatory.

Nifong would get what he wanted: victory in the May 2 primary and the Nov. 7 general election.

That May, Nifong filed a statement saying the prosecution was "not aware of any additional material or information which may be exculpatory in nature." In December, after Nifong was reelected, the head of a DNA laboratory revealed that he and Nifong knew in April there was no DNA from the players found on the victim or her clothing.

For the failure to disclose exculpatory evidence, for inflammatory public statements and for lying to the court and to the bar, Nifong faces ethics charges from the state bar and a June 12 hearing date. The state bar's complaint says Nifong's actions constitute a "systematic abuse of prosecutorial discretion . . . prejudicial to the administration of justice."

Collin Finnerty, 19; Dave Evans, 23, and Reade Seligmann, 23, their lives and reputations damaged, hopefully will be free soon. Not so lucky are Scooter Libby and Border Patrol agents Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos, pursued with equal passion for equally personal reasons, by U.S. attorneys Patrick Fitzgerald and Johnny Sutton.

Fitzgerald pursued the case against Libby for lying to investigators concerning the "outing" of Valerie Plame even though he knew who leaked her name, that leaking her was not a crime and that the name of the Vanity Fair cover girl was public knowledge. He pursued it to justify spending years and millions in taxpayer dollars. He pursued it to save his reputation. Libby was his trophy.

It's bad enough Compean and Ramos were prosecuted for doing their jobs, protecting our border. But the lengths U.S. Attorney for Western Texas Johnny Sutton went to get their convictions would make Mike Nifong proud.

At issue is a second incident involving their accuser being caught smuggling more drugs into the United States in October 2005 after being given immunity in exchange for his testimony against the two agents concerning their February confrontation.

It is that second incident that Sutton successfully concealed from the jury. As Rep. Dana Rohrbacher, R.-Calif., has pointed out, "The prime witness against these two border patrol agents was involved in another major load of drugs and the prosecution made a conscious decision to keep these facts from the jury."

Sutton and Fitzgerald appear to be equally ambitious prosecutors who, like Nifong, engage in "systematic abuse of prosecutorial discretion" to achieve their ends, perhaps new jobs or at least retention in a Democratic administration after 2008.

The real mystery in the U.S. attorney firings that have subsequently dominated media attention is why Fitzgerald and Sutton were not on the list.

OK. We know they are innocent. We know the accuser is a liar. Prosecute her. Make her admit her lies. Give the Duke 3 their walking papers.


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