Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Charns: What Does a Law Enforcement Disaster Look Like?

Here is the complete Alex Charns letter on the Baker/Chalmers report, an edited version of which appeared in today's N&O. The opening line is both clever and appropriate.

---------

What does a law enforcement disaster look like? Read the Durham Police/City Manager report on the Duke lacrosse investigation to find out.

The twelve page sham wrapped in a whitewash, basted in denial, doesn’t even mention that a Durham police corporal offered money for anonymous tips to prove that a “horrific” “gang-rape” had occurred. He didn’t make the pretense of saying “alleged crime.”

This verdict first, proof later, Bull City justice has thrived in Durham for the past year. Based on the recent report, things are going to stay this way. To quote Jefferson Airplane riffing on that girl in Wonderland, “Go ask Alice, I think she’ll know.”

Last May, on behalf of one of the unindicted Duke lacrosse players, I wrote to Durham City Manager Patrick Baker asking for an investigation into this police e-mail and poster on Durham Police letterhead that was distributed to thousands of people by list-servers and to the media. It claimed: “The Duke Lacrosse Team was hosting a party” where the “victim was sodomized, raped, assaulted and robbed. This horrific crime sent shock waves throughout our community.”

This poster was handed out by at least one police officer in the neighborhood where lacrosse players lived. It fanned the flames of racial division and perpetuated a lie. No wonder some in Durham don’t believe the Attorney General’s clear statement that the players are innocent.

City officials told me no investigation was necessary. The matter had been taken care of. I asked that the city make public any inquiry it had made into this matter. Mr. Baker said he’d get back to me about that.

In the not so distant past, Durham police officers wiretapped their own African-American employees who they falsely accused of running a “call-girl ring” out of police headquarters. Durham officers forged the signature of an assistant district attorney using a copy machine on subpoenas for private telephone records. The city spent about half a million dollars denying wrongdoing in court, only to ultimately settle the cases after a federal appeals court ruled against them.

In another case, Internal Affairs engaged in a cover-up to hide the fact that two African-American sisters where brutalized by officers. Almost $300,000 was paid to these women and the former city manager apologized. The day the check was delivered to the victims, the city manager trumpeted to the press that the officers had done nothing wrong. “So it goes,” Vonnegut would say.

I’m still waiting for a real apology, a real investigation and real leadership.

46 comments:

Chicago said...

I hope Starn does not have to wait much longer. However, I am afraid he will have to considering the clowns running Durham.

I wish I was a lawyer handling civil suits, I would be working Durham pretty hard. It would be easy money and easy to prove the many faults of that City.

Anonymous said...

"What Does a Law Enforcement Disaster Look Like?"

Thats a brilliant opening. This guy is my hero...

Stephen said...

Law EnFARCEment !

Anonymous said...

Carolyn says:

"Durham officers forged the signature of an assistant district attorney using a copy machine on subpoenas for private telephone records."

Dang, that's a new one! Sheesh, if the DPD digs itself any deeper, its shovels will come out in Peking.

Kgun5 said...

The protection government officials receive when they have committed crimes often reminds me of the amnesty enjoyed by referees in professional sports...

One could have undisputable video evidence of rule/law violation, yet most of the time all that results from said travesties is a a statement reading: "Gee, we're real sorry we screwed you over, but it is SUCH a tough job that we do, that mistakes like this are inevitable. We believe the parties responsible for this mistake acted correctly, and gosh darn it, they were trying to do the right thing. Keep supporting us!"

And who is to stop them?

Gary Packwood said...

Running a call girl operation out of city hall? Yikes!

What is it with exotic dancers and call girls in beautiful downtown Durham?

Where is Jerry Farwell when you need him?

GP

Anonymous said...

Preach it, brother! That's some serious candor--even cleared my sinuses.

Ob

Anonymous said...

When will the N&O and H-S begin to express the kind of outraged evidenced in Mr. Charns' letter?

Journalists in Durham should be demanding an independent investigation into he abuses of the Durham Police Department. Instead, we have to rely upon regular citizens to call attention to these matters.

Melanie Sill... Bob Ashley... where are you?

Anonymous said...

Iz mahs lille Precious honee on daz menuuw?

Anonymous said...

"I’m still waiting for a real apology, a real investigation and real leadership."

Something tells me he's going to be waiting a long time.

MrRabbit said...

Things are rotten to the core in Durham, and many places elsewhere. The only "justice" that will be obtained will be through the civil courts. There will be no local, state or Federal investigation. After all, the victims in this debacle are "white males of privilege", the most despised class of people on the earth amongst the leftists and political correct types that make up a significant plurality of our ruling class.

Anonymous said...

Only folk who are themselves Whistles Blowers, are qualified to voice thoughts on what others should do to impaire their careers. I am amazed so many care about Durham.

bill anderson said...

Compare someone like Mr. Charns to Woody Vann. One is a serious person who wants to see things done right; the other looks to cover up the lawbreakers in Durham. Two lawyers, two very different agendas.

Anonymous said...

Charns has a horse in this race. Vann has a horse in whatever race he can get one into. Hard to take a stand when you're running from side to side.

Anonymous said...

Durham gov is as interested in investigating itself as a fish is interested in riding a bicycle.

If there is any investigation, it will only be token and just surface deep, just enough to say "we did something".

Here's a question: Who is Mike Nifong's boss? The fact that Nifong still has his job, collects his pay, and keeps that job each passing day, despite more and more damaging news, should be a clue that no real investigation will ever be done.

Don't you folks see the plan here? Each passing day is like another day after an Earth quake. Give it enough time and folks forget most of it. Those that don't forget, lack the voice volume and numbers to matter, hence the problem goes away without any real positive changes.

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone of us knows what motivates others, unless they have told us themselves. Everything else is magical thinking and speculation, but not fact. Clearly, the AG has notified everyone that this is over. Except for getting Nifong of course and that is the job of the NCBar.

Anonymous said...

AG Cooper is Nifong's boss.

Anonymous said...

When the police or the state engage in criminal activity, it is very, very rare to see any justice, if at all. Why wouldn't they mess around? Who's gonna know, let alone care. The people they're victimizing are now "suspects" and no longer have credibility.

The US Constitution works when the police and state are lawful and play fair.

This is a mess.

Anonymous said...

Advanced Nursing Degrees start at a minnium of a Masters Degree.

Anonymous said...

Re: "AG Cooper is Nifong's boss."

Unfortunately, that is not the case. North Carolina's Constitution makes District Attorneys fully independent elected officials. Therefore, their "bosses" are the people in the districts who elect them. That's why Cooper could call Nifong a rogue prosecutor, but not fire him.

Durham Lawyer

Anonymous said...

Durham Lawyer,

Congratulations for being the first to answer my question correctly.

Now people see that there is lack of accountability. The perfect storm brewed and Nifong probably is laughing about it (still). No one can fire him. Unless the Bar strips him of his NC Law license, he skates. The Duke hoax likely won't cost him one cent of his money.

Anonymous said...

Nifong and his actions represent the State of North Carolina. He is not operating in the capacity of a private citizen. He gets his power and marching orders from the State.

Anonymous said...

I thought the DAs were under the AG in the organization chart. Wrong??? the Ag could not relieve Nifong because the NC constituation did not allow for that possibility. The NC Bar had to do the deed. Nifong is laughing alright - He likes other people being blamed beside him.

TaterCon said...

From TaterCon:

To 6:25 and the others debating the "boss" question:

The NC State Bar proceeding is Nifong's next biggest worry, and the hearing is currently scheduled to occur in about four weeks. If his license to practice law is yanked (and word is that the State Bar's disciplinary arm is doing little else but working on this case), then Nifong is no longer a district attorney, because he's no longer a practicing attorney. (He can appeal to the state's Supreme Court, of course...)

There is another proceding, currently pending, but to the frustration of those who brought it, it's currently held in abeyance by the senior resident Superior Court Judge, Orlando Hudson, pending outcome of the State Bar's procedings. The petition asks the superior court to make inquiry and hold a hearing to remove Nifong from office for his misconduct.

Down this way in New Hanover County, in the 1990's, our district attorney was removed from office through such a proceding after he confronted a black man in a Wrightsville Beach bar and shoving ensued -- trouble was, the man the DA picked to insult with racial epithets was a local who also happened to play defensive end for the Denver Broncos at the time!!! The DA did the equivalent of a 30 day Betty Ford thing, but was still removed from his job...

Orlando Hudson could do the same thing now, if he was so motivated.
But he's not. He's letting the State Bar pull the laboring oar, while Nifong continues to draw a paycheck.

Things do stay strange in the Rabbit Hole.....

TaterCon

Anonymous said...

"The fact must be faced that AG Cooper looked at the Levicy/Manly exam, interviewed the principles and experts and came to the conclusion based on their FINDING,that there was no relieable evidence of rape."

Anonymous said...

"mama don't let your children grow up and go to duke".

Anonymous said...

I am sure Mayor Bell is "on the case" as a result of the citizens around the country urging him to relieve Chalmers, etc of duty. Is this some alien joke?

Hyde Park said...

What ever happend to the 911 tapes that the police destroyed? Didn't they know they were linked to an active case?

Anonymous said...

Re: "Nifong and his actions represent the State of North Carolina. He is not operating in the capacity of a private citizen. He gets his power and marching orders from the State.
May 16, 2007 8:52:00 PM"


I agree that Nifong (or any D.A) gets his power from the State. But, I disagree that he gets his "marching orders" from the State. That's been the whole problem: A District attorney, once elected, can use the State's vast powers however he sees fit. For the most part, the only people who can fire him are the people in his district who elected him. Of course, if the State Bar disbars him, he loses his job. Also, a superior court judge can remove a D.A. in response to an affidavit, such as the one filed in Durham by Beth Brewer. But those are extraordinary, rarely-used remedies.

That's why I think the statutes (or North Carolina's Constitution, if necessary) should be amended to give the people in the rest of the State some mechanism to address the problem of a prosecutor on an ill-conceived rampage. The taxes paid by the people of Charlotte, High Point, Asheville, Wilmington, and every other town in North Carolina fund not only the SBI and other state law enforcement resources that a local D.A. can access, but those statewide taxes actually pay the salaries of the local D.A.s!

I'm from Durham. If some D.A. in another part of the state starts acting in a way that makes me embarrased to be a North Carolinian, why shouldn't I have a way to at least request investigation and possible intervention by the State? The test for out-of-district intervention should be high, but there should be a way to do it, just as A.G. Cooper suggested.

As to those in the Conference of District Attorneys who say that creating a way for State officials to intervene could lead to improper political influence -- well, what do they think happened in the lacrosse cases? Nifong appears to have politicised these cases as much or more than just about any other case in U.S. history.

And even now (with the current system) what's to stop a political boss from saying to a local D.A. (who's up for election) "Why are you being so hard on so-and so?"

Finally, the D.A.'s Conference has said that the U.S. Attorney firing scandal shows how it's not a good idea to give State officials any power over the actions of local D.A.s. I say the U.S. attorney scandal shows just the opposite. If a State official were to intervene for any reason other than clear prosecutorial misconduct, he or she would do so at their peril. Alberto Gonzales, Pete Dominici, and others are being finding that out as they are being raked over the coals for their possible roles in the firing U.S. Attorneys for political reasons.

Ken Duke
Attorney at Law
Durham, NC

Anonymous said...

KC its 9:02 - the article is not up yet. What are we to do when the DIW is no more? Sad, Sad, Sad

Anonymous said...

The ability to recall ALL elected officials would be appropriate as well. The citizens that put them in office should be able to remove them.

jmoo

Gary said...

Anyone know if there is a recall or impeachment option to get rid of Nifong? I'd hate to see him come out of this with his pension -- the "see, it doesn't matter" message would be terrible.

mac said...

It's pretty stunning that the
DPD would say that it's officers
were innocent of "brutalizing"
abusing two African American
women, especially after having to
pay $300,000. Interesting.
Where were the tubby dancers, then?

And the DPD wiretapped it's own
AA employeesunder false pretenses?
Where has Grant Farred,
Mr. Prowess Envy Himself,
been on that?

Oh, right: Farred was on
vacation, visiting his Other.

Anonymous said...

TaterCon: If the NC Bar revokes his license to practice, it will not result in his removal as DA. He would either have to resign or be removed in the proceeding currently on hold in Patterson's court. It is not a requirement that the DA actually be a licensed lawyer (just as it is not a requirement that a Supreme Court of the US Justice be a licensed lawyer.

Anonymous said...

Re: Anon at 12:23's comment that "It is not a requirement that the DA actually be a licensed lawyer..."

Actually it is a requirement:
"Only persons duly authorized to practice law in the courts of this State shall be eligible for election or appointment as a District attorney." (NC Constitution, Art. IV, Sect. 18)

Ken Duke

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:23 is correct. It is only a requirement to be elected or appointed to the office. Losing one's license does not result in one automatically losing the DA job. That can only result from a resignation or the court procedure for removal.

Anonymous said...

C. Thomas Kunz said:

Anonymous said...

C. Thomas Kunz said:
The legislature is trying to "fix" the problem of replacing a DA who has been disbarred (or for that matter, a judge). Under a bill introduced in the legislature (Senate DRS35044-LB-22A), if a DA or a judge is disbarred, the Governor will be permitted to declare the office vacant and replace him or her. The idea is that because the DA no longer is constitutionall qualified, you shouldn't have to go through the court procedure or, in the case of a disbarred judge, impeachment.

Anonymous said...

Re: Anonymous 12:23 is correct. It is only a requirement to be elected or appointed to the office. Losing one's license does not result in one automatically losing the DA job. That can only result from a resignation or the court procedure for removal.

*****
If a D.A. is disbarred, he or she will not be able to "practice law." So, while the person may still technically hold the job, he will not actually be able to do the job, and if he tries to, he could be charged with the crime of practicing law without a license, IMO.

I know it makes people mad (me, too) that the person could go on drawing a salary for a while, but at least he would not be acting as the D.A.

Ken Duke

Anonymous said...

Ken Duke:
In the real world many DAs never go to court-- they let their Assistant DAs do all of that. So a disbarred DA could still "do the job" of a DA (hiring ADAs, deciding who to indict, approving plea deals made by the ADAs etc.) That's why the legislative fix mentioned above is a good idea-- it would prevent a disbarred DA from staying in office, drawing his salary but not going to court.

C. Thomas Kunz

Anonymous said...

Thomas,

Many of the things you describe --deciding who to indict, approving plea deals made by the ADAs etc.-- would constitute the practice of law, IMO. G.S. 84-2.1 states that the practice of law includes, among other things, "assisting by advice, counsel or otherwise, any legal work."

Ken

mac said...

4:43
Oh, gosh.
Does that mean that all of us
bloglings out here might be
indicted for "practicing law
without a license" when we comment
about the legality of Nifong's
decisions etc.?

Not being serious here, but...

Anonymous said...

Ken: I think you are reading the provision too broadly but have never researched the precise scope of that rather ambiguous phrase. Don't forget, what was of most concern to those who passed the unauthorized practice of law restrictions was (i) protecting paying consumers of legal services from getting ripped off by unlicensed practitioners and (ii) protecting licensed practitioners from the competition of unlicensed ones. I don't think they ever thought of how the statute woyld apply to a disbarred DA who refused to resign.

C. Thomas Kunz
I note for amusement that, if I recalll correctly, you did not have to be a licensed lawyer to be a judge in NC until sometime in the early '80s. As one commentator pointed out above, you still don't have to be a licensed lawyer to be a US Supreme Court Justice.

mac said...

Nifey for the U.S. Supreme
Court! Hillary would make
it so!

Anonymous said...

Re: mac's "Oh, gosh.
Does that mean that all of us
bloglings out here might be
indicted for "practicing law
without a license" when we comment
about the legality of Nifong's
decisions etc.?

Not being serious here, but..."

*****
Making comments on the actions of a public servant doesn't count. On the other hand, if a D.A. (or anyone else) were to call you up and ask you whether he could legally do x, y , or z, then you probaby would be practicing law. When I was begininng law school, the professors warned us that our friends and relatives were likely to start asking us questions about their leases, speeding tickets, etc., and that when that happened, the only "right" answer would be "I can't answer that because I'm not yet a licensed attorney."
I think just about every law student hears that speech.

Ken

mac said...

Thanks. I wouldn't want to
practice law, anyway.
Well, maybe I would.
Just not in this lifetime.

Does this mean the
1st Amendment still exists?
Last I heard, rumor was that
Duke U., it's BoT, the Crazy 88s,
the City of Durh and North
Korealina were all trying to
override it.