quote:The North Carolina Bar Association filed ethics charges Thursday against the prosecutor in the Duke University rape case, accusing him of saying misleading and inflammatory things to the media about the lacrosse players under suspicion.
The punishment for ethics violations can range from admonishment to disbarment.
Among the four rules of professional conduct that District Attorney Mike Nifong was accused of violating was a prohibition against making comments "that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused."
The bar cited 40 quotations and eight paraphrased statements made to newspaper and television reporters, saying many of them amounted to "improper commentary about the character, credibility and reputation of the accused" or their alleged unwillingness to cooperate. Most of the comments were made in March and April, in the early days of the case.
· Nifong referred to the lacrosse players as "a bunch of hooligans."
· He declared, "I am convinced there was a rape, yes, sir."
· He told ESPN: "One would wonder why one needs an attorney if one was not charged and had not done anything wrong."
· He told the New York Times: "I'm disappointed that no one has been enough of a man to come forward. And if they would have spoken up at the time, this may never have happened."
Nifong was also charged with breaking a rule against "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation." The bar said that when DNA testing failed to find evidence a lacrosse player raped the accuser, Nifong told a reporter the players might have used condoms.
According to the bar, Nifong knew that assertion was misleading, because he had received a report from an emergency room nurse in which the accuser said her attackers did not use condoms.
Note that the first standard described does not require dishonesty or fraud to create an ethical violation. The bolded statement is a possible violation of the ethical rule at issue. Also note that the case against the prosecutor was opened two weeks after the incident at issue - it is not based on the recent dropping of the rape charges.
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