Durham, N.C., District Attorney Mike Nifong today admitted to a lawyer disciplinary panel that some of his public comments in the early investigation of the Duke lacrosse case were improper, reports the Raleigh News & Observer. He acknowledged that his statements would give the disciplinary panel grounds to punish him. Nifong said some comments were aimed at encouraging witnesses to come forward in the case, in which an escort service dancer said she had been raped at a team party. Other comments, in which he referred to the race of the lacrosse players and the dancer, simply “crossed the line,” Nifong said.
Nifong said he tried to limit his comments to items that were in the public record, but he acknowledged that he “either became confused about what was in the public record or maybe got carried away a little bit.” He said that at the time, he did not watch broadcasts of many of his comments. He added: “Maybe if I’d seen some of these things, I’d have shut up sooner.” The State Bar contends that Nifong not only made inflammatory, prejudicial statements but that — more seriously — he deliberately withheld critical DNA evidence from lawyers for the lacrosse players. Nifong is expected to vigorously contest the latter charge.