Mike Nifong: The inside story

The Raleigh News and Observer has an in depth story on disgraced NC district attorney Mike Nifong, which details how he got involved in the Duke lacrosse rap case, his rush to judgment, and why he was running for election to keep his job as DA in the first place. I say election and not re-election, because he was actually appointed by Gov. Mike Easley to the DA position the first time around.

Essentially, he wanted to retain his position as DA for another four years because it would have helped him garner a more cushy retirement package:

[Nifong campaign manager Jackie] Brown agreed to meet him for lunch Jan. 2, 2006, at the downtown Marriott near the courthouse. Nifong showed up with his wife, Cy Gurney. As the women ate Caesar salads and Nifong tended to a steak sandwich, Gurney did most of the talking. Brown was struck by the first words out of Nifong’s mouth.

“He said, ‘I really don’t want this job; I was the last one on the list. I just need three years and seven months for retirement. You won’t have to worry about running another campaign for me.’ ”

Brown was taken aback: Did Nifong, then 55, really want to go through the hassle of a campaign? “He said, ‘I know nothing about politics. That’s why I need you to be campaign manager.’ ”

Four more years would make a big difference for Nifong’s retirement. If he served five years as a district attorney, his 29 years as a regular state employee would apply to the more lucrative retirement plan for a district attorney; overnight, in April 2010, his annual pension would increase by at least $15,000 a year.

When Brown drove back from the beach, she found satellite trucks crowding the courthouse parking lot. Reporters and camera crews roamed the sixth-floor hallway outside Nifong’s office, looking for an interview.

Nifong obliged, declaring that the rape was racially motivated. He ripped into the lacrosse players in an interview with The N&O: “I would like to think that somebody who was not in the bathroom has the human decency to call up and say, ‘What am I doing covering up for a bunch of hooligans?’ ”

Seeing the crowd, Brown retreated to a corner and called Nifong several times on his cell phone, she said. No answer.

When Nifong left his office to go to the men’s room, Brown maneuvered him into a corner so her back was to the cameras.

“What are you doing? Why don’t you answer my calls?”

The television reporters had asked that he turn off the cell phone so it wouldn’t ring during interviews, Nifong said.

“I said, ‘You don’t have any idea what the impact is going to be on your campaign.’ He said, ‘I’m getting a million dollars of free advertisements.’

Astounding. Three lives ruined, and countless others hurt in the process, all so Nifong could count on a retirement that would be a little more generous if he was elected on as DA for four more years – which he was.

Liestoppers wonders if the assistant DAs who worked with Nifong throughout the case will one day get their day in court.

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