The idea that Linwood Wilson—a figure who, the N&O noted, faced “repeated complaints and at least seven formal inquiries into his conduct” as a private investigator—ever could have been the chief investigator for a district attorney would seem possible only in the Wonderland that is Durham.
The Wilson deposition to the Bar suggested that the (now-fired) investigator didn’t suddenly develop an ethical core when he went under oath. He alternated between scarcely credible and wholly non-credible assertions as he explained his involvement in the lacrosse case—which began with the arrest of Seligmann alibi witness Moezeldin Elmostafa and ended with SANE nurse Tara Levicy “remembering” that Crystal Mangum was uncertain about whether her “attackers” used condoms.
The December 21st Interview
Nowhere was the ex-investigator less credible than in his discussion of the Dec. 21st “interview” with Mangum. In that interview, which was untaped and which Wilson conducted alone, Mangum told an entirely new story, one that conveniently seemed to cover many of the yawning gaps in the evidence.
What necessitated the interview on December 21st, one day after Nifong received notice from the Bar that it was considering an ethics complaint against him for withholding DNA evidence? Wilson: “There were some discrepancies between what Kim Roberts had said and what Crystal Mangum had said,” as well as between Mangum’s various versions of events and the time-stamped party photos broadcast by MSNBC’s Dan Abrams. Both sets of discrepancies, Wilson said, needed to be cleared up.
Indeed. There had been “some discrepancies” between what Mangum and Roberts had said since March 22, 2006, when Roberts gave her statement to police. And there had been “discrepancies” between what Mangum’s stories and the time-stamped photos since April 2006, when Abrams first broadcast the photos.
Why did Wilson and Nifong wait eight months to try to resolve these discrepancies? Wilson didn’t say. Why was it so important to address this issue four days before Christmas, without any member of the Durham Police present for the interview? Wilson, again, didn’t say.
How, then, did the “interview” wind up creating a wholly new version of events?
According to Wilson, Mangum was having “flashbacks,” and then, during his visit, “she just started talking” about them. (I’m not making this up.) As an officer of the law, he felt duty bound to write down these flashbacks—but not to tape the conversation, nor to ask any questions about the obvious contradictions this new version of events revealed. He said he didn’t feel it was “appropriate” to do so at that time.
After the “flashback” session ended, Wilson decided to show Mangum some of the party photos. But as he opened his briefcase, he just happened to have the photos from the April 4 lineup (which were then the subject of a suppression motion). And, further, he just happened to have Dave Evans’ photo in plain sight. And, even further, Mangum just happened to know Evans’ name. And, further still, Mangum just happened to remember that on the night of the party Evans didn’t have a mustache—as Mangum had claimed on April 4 and the defense had recently disproved with photos from the time—but a five o’clock shadow.
The reaction of Katherine Jean, who was conducting the deposition for the Bar, dripped with incredulity, even on the transcript.
Wilson brought along for the deposition evidence of the “investigation” carried on by the Nifong team. This “investigation” waited over a year to speak to the neighbors of 610 Buchanan—who told Ben Himan that the lacrosse players’ most grievous offense was an inability to park cars correctly(!). At the same time, Wilson and Nifong appear to have been remarkably interested in random e-mails from unknown parties (such as “Becky Lane, Ph.D.”) offering theories that could support their hope that a crime actually occurred.
Despite Nifong’s claim on the stand that he had relieved Wilson from interviewing witnesses at an undetermined time in late 2006 or early 2007, as of the date of his deposition (May 23, 2007, or three weeks before the DA made the assertion under oath), Wilson declared that this role remained part of his job description: “I interview witnesses if the assistant district attorney requests that I do that.”
In a follow-up question from Katherine Jean, Wilson confirmed the point. Had his duties, Jean asked, “been the same since you became the investigator in October of ’06?” Wilson’s response: “They have.”
Wilson also wanted it known that—throughout the case—he initiated nothing. “I didn’t,” he informed Jean, “do anything on my own.” The message: if he committed misconduct, it’s the fault of whoever ordered him to do something improper. (Wilson contradicted this claim later in the deposition, when he conceded that he had initiated a meeting with Mangum to discuss the first 60 Minutes broadcast.)
Wilson’s admitted role, in any event, was considerable: Nifong tasked him with “re-interviewing” every witness in the case, including every police officer who had any contact with Mangum. Neither the ex-DA nor his ex-investigator ever said why witnesses needed to be “re-interviewed,” and, if so, what qualified Wilson to perform such an important job.
Moreover, as Joe Neff’s Sunday article revealed, Wilson claimed that part of his job was coordinating an internal affairs investigation of Sgt. John Shelton—the only member of the Durham Police who got the case right from the start and recognized that Mangum was lying.
According to Wilson, Himan—not Wilson or Nifong—was running the investigation throughout the fall.
This was news to Katherine Jean, who asked Wilson how many interviews he and Himan did together. “Every interview I was involved in,” proclaimed Wilson.
Well, except for those of “the police officers Barfield, Sutton, Stewart, Shelton, [and] Jones.” And except for “the December 21st interview of Crystal Mangum.” And except for “the interview of Kim Roberts in July where she was in our office.”
Wilson on Nifong
Wilson stated that he had “always thought that [Nifong] was a very ethical person.” Coming from a person with Wilson’s own dubious ethical record, perhaps this character reference wasn’t terribly valuable for the ex-DA.
Meanwhile, the ex-investigator described the ex-DA as someone who “does pay attention to details”—an image wholly contrary to Nifong’s self-portrayal of a figure who couldn’t be bothered to read documents fundamental to the case in the course of nine months.
Wilson and DNA
Wilson wanted Jean to know that if there was a conspiracy to withhold exculpatory DNA evidence, he wasn’t a party to it. In fact, he told her, the first he had heard of this information came in court on December 15.
How could he be sure? Because “I’ve never read Dr. Meehan’s report that I know of.”
This was the same Linwood Wilson who, on the courthouse steps in June, interrupted Joe Cheshire’s press conference to declare “that he personally read all 1814 pages of discovery documents”—documents that included, among other items, Dr. Meehan’s report.
Wilson’s description of his involvement in the Elmostafa arrest was comical. Liestoppers summed it up: “Anonymous or unknown tipster from within DA’s office or maybe the Clerk’s office leads Wilson to warrant by suggesting that Elmostafa may have written a bad check(!). He presents warrant in meeting with Gottlieb, Himan, Nifong, and Candy Clark. Alternately, he or Nifong hands warrant to Himan or Gottlieb. Wilson didn’t expect Himan and Gottlieb to serve the warrant themselves.”
While he couldn’t recall the identity (or even the gender) of the anonymous tipster, and he didn’t remember if he spoke with this person or simply received a message from him/her, Wilson did recall with precision that the tipster told him to “check for a worthless check” on Elmostafa.
When asked whether he recalled any discussions about whether the arrest and prosecution of Elmostafa might be perceived as retaliatory, Wilson replied that he believed that such conversations did occur—but he could remember no additional details. “I don’t specifically recall having that conversation with Mr. Nifong,” Wilson reported—though “I’m not saying I didn’t.”
As Wilson spent his time on attempting to discredit an innocent bystander who had come forward to tell the truth and not remembering conversations he might or might not have had with Nifong, he found out that Crystal Mangum had previously claimed to have been gang raped not from his investigatory work—but from the AP, which broke the story.
At Nifong’s request, Wilson then traveled to Creedmoor, where the alleged incident occurred, to attend the press conference at which Creedmoor town officials discussed Mangum’s never-pursued claim. According to Wilson, the only person involved in the case who thought this incident might affect Mangum’s credibility was Officer Himan.
Two ex-Creedmoor police officers currently work for the Durham Police Department. Wilson said that in early May 2006, he looked into contacting them to see whether they had any more information about the alleged crime. More than eight months later, when Nifong recused himself from the case, Wilson hadn’t gotten around to speaking with either officer. Why not? The ex-investigator blamed Himan for not setting up the meeting.
Wilson the Skeptic
Wilson claimed that, from the start, he harbored doubts about whether Mangum was telling the truth. He pressed Nifong to ask her to take a polygraph.
But Nifong refused, saying, “I don’t polygraph victims, especially sexual assault victims, and make those victims think I don’t trust them or believe them.”
There were, of course, no witnesses to corroborate Wilson’s alleged skepticism.
For those who argue that Nifong has been punished enough, the Wilson deposition is Exhibit A on the necessity for a criminal investigation. The descriptions above came from a man who did everything he could, for nearly a year, to use the power of the state to send to jail three demonstrably innocent people, for a crime that they not only didn’t commit but never occurred.