The lacrosse case suffered from what could be called the “recovered memory” approach to law enforcement. In July, Sgt. Mark Gottlieb produced a “straight-from-memory” report—undated, unsigned, typed—that conveniently filled several holes then existing in Mike Nifong’s case. Yet Gottlieb’s memory-recovery skills paled in comparison to those of Tara Levicy. On January 10, 2007, Levicy managed to remember a variety of critical details about what Crystal Mangum allegedly told her on March 14, 2006, details that hadn’t appeared in the SANE nurse’s report. All these details bolstered the beleaguered position of D.A. Mike Nifong.
Following her June 9 (unmemorialized, apparently by either side) meeting with Nifong and her SANE supervisor, Levicy was eclipsed for several months by other Nifong enablers, chiefly Linwood Wilson and Brian Meehan. Yet as Nifong’s case collapsed following the dismissal of the rape charge on December 22, he and Wilson returned to Levicy for assistance.
On January 10, Wilson and Himan interviewed the SANE nurse—her seventh contact with either the DPD or Nifong’s office since March 16, 2006. At this meeting, Levicy provided three startling new details, each of which propped up Nifong’s new theory of the crime, conformed to her stated view that she had never encountered a woman who lied about being raped, and had passed unmentioned in her March 14 report. In a subsequent interview with defense attorneys, Levicy said that
Levicy’s contribution to the case’s “straight-from-memory” litany included:
1.) In her report from the night of the “attack,” Levicy wrote that Mangum said no condoms were used. But on January 10, according to
In follow-up questioning from defense attorney Doug Kingsbery, Levicy claimed that she didn’t tell
Presented with a hard copy of the report showing that Mangum was uncertain about ejaculation, not condom use, Levicy simply modified her story. Rather than admit she was wrong, she now asserted that Mangum had “hesitated” when asked about condom use—even though she had never noted this hesitation in her March 14 report.
At the Liestoppers forum, defense attorney Jim Cooney noted that Levicy’s sudden uncertainty about the use of condoms “was not for purposes of continuing the case”—since, by this point, Nifong was already on his way out—but instead because Nifong was “attempting to put together a defense for his ‘condom’ comments in the Bar’s complaint, and wanted to bolster it with Levicy. She obliged without apparently reviewing her own documents carefully.”
2.) Seeking to explain the lack of DNA evidence, Levicy offered an item more appropriate for the kind of papers she might have submitted as a women’s studies major at the
Remarkably, this SANE nurse at one of
(Joe Neff has reported that Levicy wrote back to the DA’s investigator a few days after her meeting—Nifong, it’s worth recalling, was out of the case only two days after her interview with Wilson, meaning that unbiased eyes would scrutinize her work for the first time—to offer additional reasons why no semen was found, including the possibility that no attack occurred.)
3.) In her interview with
Levicy’s only response to this observation? “Oh.”
She did deny, however, that her new “knowledge” came from media sources—since, she told defense attorneys, she had deliberately avoided any press coverage about the case. At another point in the interview, however, she commented that Dan Flannery had made the call to hire the strippers. Kingsbery then asked her how she knew Flannery’s name, since he gave the name Dan Flannigan to the stripper agency. That must have come from having read newspaper articles about the case, Levicy replied.
I guess she did read the press coverage after all.
Levicy has never explained how her memory suddenly improved nearly ten months after her examination of Mangum; she, along with Theresa Arico, declined two requests for comment about this post and a third offer to post their entire reply, unedited. The day after I contacted her, Levicy’s e-mail address and phone numbers disappeared from the Duke website.
As defense attorneys critiqued Levicy’s performance, they could rely on more than the yawning gaps between her report and her later versions of events. The person that Levicy herself told Doug Kingsbery was the leading authority on rape treatment in the country—Dr. Ann Burgess—was a defense expert for the case.
Burgess’ roots in treating rape victims dated back to 1972, when she co-founded a victims’ program at
If, then, a trial had occurred, Levicy would faced a difficult time. Yet any shortcomings in Levicy’s testimony would have been almost immaterial to Nifong. As Jim Coleman recently pointed out, it increasingly appears that in his final months running the case, Nifong’s chief goal was somehow to get to trial, regardless of the verdict.
In that respect, Levicy was of critical assistance. Her statements to police allowed Nifong to mask his false assertions about the “crime” in the cloak of medical evidence, while her willingness to alter her story in ways that always seemed to aid the D.A.’s case gave Nifong at least one witness on whom he could absolutely rely—not an easy task in a case where the accuser tended to dramatically change her story every time she spoke to law enforcement.
Kethra, SANE nurse who frequently posts on the Liestoppers forum, concludes:
Ms. Levicy’s actions were unconscionable, unprofessional and the inherent sign of an incredibly biased person and nurse. She alone, is responsible for the start of this witch hunt in my opinion. By not telling the actual facts, by misrepresenting to the police the signs and symptoms of a rape victim, by “embroidering” the true patient findings and historical story, by her sheer ignorance of appropriate forensic evidence collection technique, her sheer ignorance of basic pathophysiology, her sheer ignorance of general medical conditions and the identification of those conditions and by her glaring egotistical need to portray herself as an expert, she sent the police down the trail of deception. Combine that with a rogue prosecutor and shoddy police work (didn’t they read the stupid medical reports for themselves?) she almost put three innocent men in jail.
According to the Duke website as of Monday, Tara Levicy remains in the employ of