Saturday, April 12, 2014

Nifong's Allies

Two earlier posts examined the two most disturbing elements of William D. Cohan’s lionization of Mike Nifong: the dismissal of basic prosecutorial ethics, and the evidence-free manner in which Cohan casts aspersions on innocent people.

Today’s post looks at the book’s treatment of Nifong’s key allies—former SANE-nurse-in-training Tara Levicy; former DPD Sgt. Mark Gottlieb; the Durham Police Department; and convicted murderer Crystal Mangum.

Former SANE-nurse-in-training Tara Levicy

While his book is mostly chronological in presentation, Cohan makes two critical departures to bolster his pro-Nifong narrative. The first (p. 31) comes with Levicy. Mangum, of course, told Levicy that her attackers didn’t use condoms, and described an attack in which specifics made clear that the alleged perpetrators could not have used condoms. Levicy produced the claim in her report, and Nifong repeated it frequently in his pre-primary publicity barrage. This notation also was critical to determining the importance of the DNA evidence—since if the attackers didn’t use condoms, they would have almost certainly left DNA.

Months later, Levicy “recalled” that the attackers might not have used condoms—to coincide with the lack of any DNA matches to a member of the lacrosse team. But Cohan relays this information in a much different way: “Levicy also later conceded Mangum wasn’t sure.” He does not say how much “later” this concession came.

First, there’s no evidence that Mangum ever told Levicy she was unsure her “attackers” used condoms. Levicy’s written report suggests exactly the opposite. Second, Cohan provides no context as to how Levicy reached this conclusion, or its importance in the case as a whole. Instead, the “recollection” is treated as routine. Levicy . . . discovered . . . that condoms might have been used only after Nifong had revealed that no DNA matches existed—and had been hammered in the public for his DNA failings. Levicy then came along to suggest that maybe the DNA wasn’t important after all.

Levicy’s job—as a SANE nurse-in-training—was to memorialize what Mangum told her, not to adjust Mangum’s version months after the fact in a way that plugged in holes in Nifong’s case. And Cohan neglects entirely Levicy’s subsequent recollection that she had forgotten (testimony, perhaps, to her inexperience) to include in her report the time Mangum said that the attack occurred (around 1.00am, poking yet more holes in the many Mangum tall tales).

Cohan also discusses (seemingly to minimize) Levicy’s ideological biases (p. 33) by relaying that the “assumption” Levicy was a true-believer feminist on rape issues came from her “time with Planned Parenthood and an article she wrote in 2003.” Cohan doesn’t mention Levicy’s Wendy Murphy-like statement to defense attorneys that she never encountered a woman who lied about being raped. (Cohan might have encountered that statement if he had sought to interview the defense attorneys.)

Cohan uses Nifong’s words to bolster Levicy, quoting (p. 171) the disgraced ex-prosecutor saying that Levicy would have been a “really convincing witness” who had “every incentive to do this by the book.” Since Cohan glossed over Levicy’s willingness to toss out the book—by adjusting her recollection of what Mangum told her to fit Nifong’s evolving story—this comment is laughable.

Finally, publicity material accompanying the publication makes an odd claim: “For the first time, Cohan makes public the medical report that rape[sic, SANE] nurse [in training] Tara Levicy conducted on Mangum . . . What Mangum told Levicy that night is stunning and has never before been revealed.” [emphasis added] Yet virtually everyone who has covered the case in depth (Joe Neff, Stuart Taylor and I, 60 Minutes, even Duff Wilson) had seen (and reported on) the document prepared by Levicy. Given Wilson’s editorial perspective, Cohan isn’t even the first person to have uncritically accepted the Levicy report’s findings. The publicity document makes a similarly incorrect claim about Cohan being the first to reveal material from Mangum’s medical visits to UNC Hospital. Much like Cohan’s assertion to “Morning Joe” that Bob Steel spoke to him for the “first time” about the case, when in fact Steel had previously spoken to Peter Boyer and to Stuart, it appears that Cohan employs a flexible definition of the word “first.”

The Gottlieb Report

Cohan’s other departure from chronology comes with the “straight-from-memory” report, from which he repeatedly quotes. An example of just how deceptively Cohan employs the document comes in his description of the Himan/Gottlieb meeting with Mangum on 16 March 2006. At that meeting, Himan’s contemporaneous notes were enormously helpful to the defense, since they provided Mangum’s wholly unrealistic descriptions of the three “attackers.” Gottlieb’s report, on the other hand, awkwardly papered over the myriad inconsistencies in Mangum’s stories that had emerged in the four months between the meeting and the ex-sergeant penning his “straight-from-memory” document.

Which description does Cohan use? Gottlieb’s, for the first two pages of his discussion of the interview session: “The detectives [sic] noted that she ‘had a very slow gate that was obviously painful while she was walking.” That “note” never came from Himan, despite what Cohan asserts. Cohan reproduces Gottlieb’s claim of bruising—even though contemporaneous photos showed no such thing.

Most important, Cohan leads (p. 62) with the months-after-the-fact descriptions provided in the Gottlieb report before mentioning the wholly contradictory descriptions recorded at the time by Himan. Readers are never informed that Gottlieb’s “descriptions” allegedly came straight from memory, months after the fact, after serious questions had been raised about the IDs of Seligmann and Finnerty. This is the precise formulation employed in the ridiculed Duff Wilson piece from the Times—although at least Wilson, unlike Cohan, conceded that he was quoting from a document produced months after the fact.

Even out of chronological order, Cohan never mentions how the report was constructed (months after the events it allegedly described, and not from contemporaneous hand-written notes). Perhaps to avoid certain criticism on this front, he tries to cover himself by mentioning, on page 401, “Gottlieb’s newly-drafted thirty-three page chronology of the case”—without ever explaining how this was the document that he was using, and credibly, hundreds of pages earlier in the book.

Cohan, obviously, knew of the questions behind the straight-from-memory “report.” His decision to conceal the Gottlieb document’s provenance can only be interpreted as malicious.

Cohan protects Gottlieb’s credibility on one other occasion. Fitting his pattern of minimizing or just excluding material that doesn’t look good, Cohan describes the grand jury appearance (p. 260) while ignoring the critical summary in Gottlieb’s deposition to the bar. He thus can ignore the fact that Gottlieb gave false testimony—that Mangum’s story was consistent after she spoke to Levicy—to the grand jury.

Nifong: The Investigation & Motivation

In the Gottlieb report, the officer recalled a meeting with Capt. Lamb in which the DPD was hereafter required to report to Nifong. And after that day (27 March), every major investigative decision in the case (most notably the decision to send DNA samples to inquiry and the rigged April 2006 photo array) received Nifong’s input.

Nifong doesn’t deny that his meeting with Lamb occurred, but Cohan gives Nifong a chance (unchallenged) to walk back the record. He was merely, he told Cohan, offering himself for “advice” (at that point, he hadn’t handled a criminal case in nearly a decade: what sort of advice could he give to police?). Nifong maintained that he “never” (p. 81) would have told Lamb he was going to be running the case. Cohan lets Nifong have the last word on the question, and then simply moves on, without asking him to reconcile his after-the-fact denial with the record of the case.

(Cohan gives no indication of having tried to contact Lamb to discuss Nifong’s sudden memory change.)

Why did Nifong take such a prominent role in the criminal investigation? According to Cohan, “his critics also thought they understood why he did it.” He was “trailing badly”—scare quotes in original—in the polls. The wording suggests his “critics” were wrong, without the author ever quite coming out and saying so, and without either citing a poll showing Nifong winning before the case erupted, or explaining how Nifong could have won given his fundraising had dried up.

So did politics motivate Nifong? Who knows? How should anyone expect the “definitive, magisterial” account to answer the question? Cohan just moves on, as he regularly does whenever he can’t come up with an excuse for Nifong’s conduct.


Cohan notes that Mangum did not present a convincing version of events to the special prosecutors, but he appears to attribute her difficulties to the prosecutors themselves (especially Jim Coman, who had the temerity to ask Mangum to address the myriad contradictions in her myriad stories). Without revealing his source for the information, Cohan writes that Mangum “felt disrespected, a feeling she had never felt from either Nifong or the police.”

Perhaps the above, which does not appear in quotation marks in the book, came from Cohan’s prison interview with Mangum, before her release on bail and subsequent conviction for murder. During this discussion, Mangum tells Cohan yet another story, different from those she offered to Levicy, Gottlieb, or the special prosecutors—that she was assaulted with a broomstick, and that her exam at Duke Hospital found “wooden pieces” in her vaginal and anal area. Of course no “wooden pieces” were found.

This, at least briefly, appears to be too much even for Cohan, who points out that no wooden pieces were found.

But he quickly moves along and allows Mangum to tell the rest of her new story—including a wild claim (p. 520) that Reade Seligmann carried her to the car. There is, of course, a photo of the two guys that carried her to the car (neither was Seligmann), since Seligmann was nowhere near the house at the time. Cohan doesn’t point that out in the passage. No need, apparently, to excessively undermine the credibility of the book’s victim.

The impression that readers come away from the framing of the passage is not that Mangum is delusional, but that something probably happened to her, and she might now just be a little confused. Indeed, Cohan, who insisted in his TV appearances in labeling Mangum as a victim,” has recently termed her “quite poised, quite intelligent, quite articulate, and quite clear thinking.”

A reminder: Cohan here is describing a convicted murderer, who had a massive—albeit closed—psychological case file.


Anonymous said...

Your commentary rings the same as the book when you ignore the fact that Ms. Mangum's murder convinction is on appeal, that Duke's own malpractice is in question for the actual cause of death, that the discredited Medical Examiner's reports have still to be investigated and dealt with by the justice system, and that Duke's role in Mr. Daye's death is suspicious at best given the history of the Duke Lacrosse Case.

guiowen said...

to the 12:44:
You're wrong.

Anonymous said...

There is no perspective nor consideration for the lack of justice, ethics, and ability to even have a reasonable trial when Duke is involved in the Duke / Durham / NC justice system for anyone other than the lacrosse players in what you write that also distorts reality for agenda KC. You harm millions of people and the USA justice system when you do that. You do know that don't you? Most people aren't as amused by the games and the harm as Duke, etc., seem to be.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 1:57 AM

Most people find you delusional and seriously misinformed as to reality.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if William Cohan ever watched the you tube video of Tara Levicy's cross examination( She is directed to three places in the medical record where she recorded that Crystal said condoms were not used.

Anonymous said...

KC's utter demolition of Cohan's "book" makes me wonder whether Cohan is merely stupid or venal (or both).

Chris Halkides said...

So Mangum is articulate and clear thinking except when she talks about wooden splinters and except in allegedly not being certain that her attackers used condoms? I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous at 7:33 AM:
Your comment is incorrect. All people find Anonymous at
1;57 AM delusional and seriously misinformed as to reality.

A Duke Dad said...

T r o l l :
a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people. Done by posting inflammatory, extraneous, ad hominem or off-topic messages.
The deliberate intent is to disrupt normal on-topic discussion.

Please !
D.O. . . N . O . T. . . F.E.E.D . . . T.H.E. . . T.R.O.L.L.S. . .

Zvi Kedem said...

I apologize for an unrelated comment. There is a column in today's Financial Times, which is simply amazing. Financial Times is generally an extremely reliable so I was very surprised to read the following two paragraphs (after my name).

The details of the scandal are well known inside America but not elsewhere. The story starts in March 2006. Duke’s male lacrosse team was in the middle of a successful season when it hosted a party complete with female strippers. After things turned rowdy, one (black) stripper claimed that three members of the (mostly white) lacrosse team had raped her. A crusading local attorney-general championed her cause, citing racist comments from the team. However, the wealthy parents of the lacrosse players hired top lawyers and fought back. Eventually a court rejected the woman’s rape allegations, the lacrosse players were declared innocent and received $60m in damages from Duke University.

Subsequently, the attorney-general was disbarred – and there was widespread criticism of the media, which was perceived to have turned the saga into a witch-hunt, playing with emotive issues of racism and sexism. Or as Richard Brodhead, the president of Duke, observed: “The scariest thing to me is that actual human lives were at the mercy of so much instant moral certainty, before the facts were established.”

guiowen said...

Actually, I thought it was Gillian Tett who wrote that.

KC Johnson said...

In an array of odd reviews of the Cohan book, this one--which asserts that the "attorney general" was disbarred--takes the cake.

Greg Allan said...

“The detectives [sic] noted that she ‘had a very slow gate that was obviously painful while she was walking.”


Rusty hinges?

Anonymous said...

Well KC i too apologize if it does seem like i am trolling you, but of course it is not meant that way at all. I simply thought it was important enough to point out to you directly that the same behavior in the NC justice system and the author's account of the case gathered from what you say about the book that you or others complain about is mirrored directly in your ignoring of the very important facts of the current appeal and request for investigation of the autopsy reports and results in order to determine quilt of murder by Ms. Mangum beyond a reasonable doubt. That is too important of a legal issue and dilemma of consequence for all to be so bluntly and obviously ignored by you since it seems to taint your ability to critique all the other issues you mention in a biased manner. Therefore, that is the lens that your perspective has to be viewed and considered since you seem ok with this assessment of your rebuttal to the book and to the case and with your murder charge spin.

Anyway, if others are not allowed to be trolled on your blog, your insuring that those whom have differing views of these highly debated issues receive the same consideration to be free from the abuse. Thanks for your consideration on that. I am sure you can understand that those with differing views have that right on this blog as well as those who fully agree with all you write.

If Ms. Mangum does win her appeal and an investigation is done ... will your commentary be thus accordingly corrected and modified?

guiowen said...

IF and WHEN Crystal's conviction is overturned, I have no doubt KC will refer to her as "the exonerated defendant". UNTIL and UNLESS that happens, she will be the "convicted murderer." Is that too difficult for you to understand?

KC Johnson said...

To the 10.19:

I'm puzzled by your suggestion about a blog commenter (on any blog) having a right "to be free from the abuse." I can't imagine how such a right would be defined, much less enforced. In the event, to the best of my knowledge, I have blocked no comments in any thread over the past week. If that isn't satisfactory to you, you are, of course, free to create your own blog.

As I noted several days ago, Crystal Mangum is currently a convicted murderer, according to records available from the state of North Carolina. That is a factual statement. If at some point in the future she were to cease to be a convicted murderer, I would cease to refer to her as a convicted murderer.

Her identity as a convicted murderer is critical in this group of posts, since it touches directly on author Cohan's remarkable willingness to blindly accept whatever Ms. Mangum told him.

In general, and for good reasons, most in society don't refer to convicted murderers as bastions of reliability--much less convicted murderers who have a history of mental problems and who have told myriad, mutually contradictory stories about the case at hand.

Anonymous said...

How long do the comments on Amazon stay on-line? Is he going to go back and recant that she is a convicted killer no more and he apologizes for the biased claim without the mention of the appeal that corrupted her appeal in possibility but oh well that didn't work, and sorry that everyone followed my lead in gang like unjust fashion? Why not give realistic consideration to what goes on in duke / durham non-justice in nonwonderland now when there is an obvious problem still with the system that could negatively affect All? Otherwise, ya'll just push the wonderland effect yourselves and become part of the problem of the injustice and corruption and an example of the many ways in which it is done.

Anonymous said...

KC, you know you are wrong in the bigger scheme of things or you wouldn't be a history instructor, or so i would like to think. Your answers shed light on your ability to consider the many sides of an issue which is what i guess i complain of the most. It just makes it seem like the lacrosse players and your followers of your views that support them like you do are true bullies to not only be suspected of and actually causing this person so much harm with the lacrosse case, but also to now ignore completely the very real problems inherent in her current murder case which pale in comparison and negatively affect all.

KC Johnson said...

To the 11.14:

Thank you for your comments. I'm sure they will have all the effect that the power of their argument merits.

Anonymous said...

One can only hope KC, one can only hope. I expect you are not planning on moving or traveling to NC again anytime soon, and certainly you may be hoping that rulings in any of the many corrupt cases in NC like these never affect you in any way, so of course, I am sure you are on the side of my view in reflection and will assist in a positive manner in a that regard. Thanks. We will all hope things get better with your attentive positive assistance as well. I am glad you understand.

A Duke Dad said...

1. For our amusement, could the Anonymous folk identify themselves ?

I'm guessing:
Victoria "crash the TV street interview" Peterson
Fast Eddy Clark
Sidney Harr Harr Harr
or maybe one of the other inhabitants of justice fer nifong.

2. "IF and WHEN Crystal's conviction is overturned . . . ."

Has Hell frozen over ? Just check your thermometer.

Anonymous said...

hell has been known to freeze over abusive duke dad troll

go troll somewhere else so we don't have to eventually question why the hell you are a 'duke dad' in the first place

why don't you apologize


A Duke Dad said...

@ 8:09 pm

Bingo ! Seems like I got it in one.

You do need to read my comment above, 4/12/14, 2:26 PM

It describes you to a "T".

Anonymous said...

you have serious issues with your dukeness you do know that right

get real


Anonymous said...

Duke abuses the entire nation with their bs, and you have the gall to sit on this blog and demand that the story continue to be told only your way to benefit Duke and victimize others when everyone knows it is all
Duke bs as usual, and then you accuse all others of trolling you if they don't believe you or Duke like are all others are actually supposed to believe all the bs to begin with.

how's that