- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2007

Did a North Carolina prosecutor, members of his staff, Durham police and a DNA testing laboratory conspire to violate the civil rights of three Duke University lacrosse players in bringing high-profile rape charges against them?

That is what Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican and former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, wants to know, calling on Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales this week to assign Justice Department attorneys and the FBI to find out.

“I have been following with great interest and deepening concern the prosecution by Durham County District Attorney Michael B. Nifong,” Mr. King said in a terse letter to Mr. Gonzales. “I have done so not only because members of Collin Finerty’s family are my constituents but because I have been accorded the privilege of representing all the citizens in this country and their interest in guaranteeing not only the appearance of justice but its actual implementation.”

Mr. King said a review he conducted of documents and summaries of Mr. Nifong’s investigation, along with discussions with other members of Congress, led to his call for the Justice Department probe.

“I am deeply disappointed by your apparent decision to defer a decision whether to investigate Mr. Nifong’s prosecution of this case,” Mr. King said, referring to rejections last week of probe requests by Reps. Walter B. Jones, North Carolina Republican, and Carolyn McCarthy, New York Democrat.

“I urge you to reconsider your decision.”

Mr. King said the Justice Department probe should target Mr. Nifong and members of his staff, including investigator Lindell Wilson; the Durham Police Department, including Officers Mark Gottlieb and Benjamin Himan; and DNA Security Inc., including its director, Brian Meehan.

He said the investigation should determine whether “these and other individuals conspired to violate and violated the constitutionally guaranteed civil rights of Collin and his two former teammates.” In addition to Mr. Finnerty, 20, of Garden City, N.Y., Reade W. Seligmann, of Essex Fells, N.J.; and David F. Evans, 23, of Annapolis, are charged.

Mr. Nifong was not available for comment. Durham Police Department spokesman Cpl. David Addison referred inquiries yesterday to the district attorney’s office. Justice Department officials have said it would be premature to initiate an investigation while criminal charges are pending.

The prosecutor has come under intense public scrutiny over his handling of the case. He was named Dec. 28 by the North Carolina State Bar in an ethics complaint, accused of “dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation” in his public comments about the case. The complaint said Mr. Nifong “knew or reasonably should have known” the statements “would have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing” the case.

Last week, Mr. Nifong asked to be removed from the case and North Carolina State Attorney General Roy A. Cooper has since taken it over. His review has begun, but it was not clear whether he would be ready for a pending Feb. 5 hearing.

“We accept the case with our eyes wide open to the evidence, but with blinders on for all other distractions,” Mr. Cooper said.

Mr. Nifong handed over the case after two major revelations:

• A Dec. 21 interview of the 28-year-old black woman who accused the three white players of raping her after she had been hired as a stripper to perform at their dorm house, during which she said she was not certain Mr. Seligmann had taken part in the assault and was not sure whether she had been penetrated during the attack, a necessary element of the crime of rape under North Carolina law.

• A Dec. 15 hearing at which Mr. Meehan said he shared tests results with Mr. Nifong but a summary report given to the defense did not contain the information that semen found inside the accuser did not match any of the Duke players. He said the decision not to give the defense the material was “an intentional limitation” at which he and Mr. Nifong arrived.

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