Thursday, January 17, 2008

Postscript: Various Items

An excellent article in today's Herald-Sun from reporter Ray Gronberg, explaining why Mike Nifong's bakruptcy filing will, perhaps, buy him some time but will not help him avoid liability for what he did. In addition, as Gronberg observes, a bankruptcy trustee "is certain to look at whether Nifong tried to hide assets from his creditors. The former DA's petition claimed he owned only a house, a car and $500 worth of clothing. He listed no other belongings -- not even a book or CD."

Aaron Beard obtains the first reaction from the falsely accused players' legal team to the City of Durham's filings. Richard Emery, who's representing Reade Seligmann, called the city's response "a very artful attempt to duck responsibilities they have . . . The simple fact is, while Nifong is definitely one of the preliminary malefactors in this whole sad saga, he was playing the role of a municipal actor and therefore Durham is responsible since they put him in charge (of the investigation)."

And this item in today's Globe from Jackie MacMullan, on the allegations against Randy Moss: "If we've learned one thing from the Duke lacrosse scandal, it's that a rush to judgment can lead to false - and devastating - conclusions. Moss deserves his day in court."

Hat tip: K.J.


Anonymous said...

KC - Hope you enjoyed your hiatus. I do not always agree with you but good to have you back.

Anonymous said...

Hey KC, good to have you back! I will always enjoy the non-fictional soap opera of Durham In Wonderland. Hope you and Stuart Taylor will write another book soon, titled "The Civil Trial of the Century".

Debrah said...


Former lacrosse coach wants suit changed

BY RAY GRONBERG : The Herald-Sun
Jan 17, 2008

DURHAM -- Former Duke men's lacrosse coach Mike Pressler wants to back away from a claim that his one-time employers violated the terms of a confidential settlement arising from his forced ouster in 2006.

But that doesn't mean the coach and his lawyers are dropping the lawsuit they filed against Duke University in October.

To the contrary, on Wednesday they asked that a state judge convert it into a straightforward slander case alleging that Duke spokesman John Burness maligned Pressler in comments last year to reporters from a New York newspaper and The Associated Press.

Pressler and his lawyers made the request on the eve of a scheduled hearing on the original lawsuit. Duke's attorneys wanted it thrown out because the coach had previously agreed to submit disputes about employment-contract issues to arbitration.

Clerks in the Durham County Courthouse said the hearing was supposed to go forward as scheduled this morning, despite the coach's motion.

Pressler's complaint targeted comments Burness made last April to Newsday sportswriter Steven Marcus, and in June to AP writer Aaron Beard.

The comments to Marcus appeared in an April 9 column published two days before N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper announced that he'd concluded former Duke lacrosse players David Evans, Colin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann were innocent men falsely accused of raping a stripper at a team party.

Marcus quoted Burness as saying the controversy sparked by the lacrosse case had taught Duke officials that "the coaches in general in each of our sports are responsible for the behavior of their teams."

The writer followed that with a sentence, unattributed, that said that lesson explained why Pressler was no longer the coach. Wednesday's filing contended that Burness "falsely told [Marcus] that Coach Pressler was terminated because he had not adequately supervised his team."

The suit also faulted Burness for allegedly telling Marcus that there was a day-and-night difference between Pressler and the current coach of the lacrosse team, John Danowski, and for repeating a comment originally made by school President Richard Brodhead characterizing Danowski as a "mensch" who "gets it."

The comment to Beard appeared in a June 7 story reporting that Duke officials and Pressler had negotiated a confidential settlement of potential claims triggered by Pressler's ouster.

Beard quoted Burness as saying, "Coach Pressler is an excellent coach and did a great job building the Duke men's lacrosse program. Unfortunately, last spring it was essential for the team to have a change of leadership in order to move forward."

Pressler's suit contends that Burness defamed him by saying it was necessary to change coaches.

The suit named only Duke University as a defendant, implicitly contending that the school was responsible for what Burness said in its name. Pressler and his lawyers did not target Burness personally, or assign liability to Marcus, Beard, Newsday or The Associated Press.

A media-law lawyer, Amanda Martin, said Pressler and his lawyers will have to establish that the comments made about him went beyond mere statements of opinion.

"Things that cannot be proven to be true or false cannot give rise to a libel or slander suit," said Martin, a private-practice lawyer and sometime instructor of media law at UNC Chapel Hill. Her client list includes the N.C. Press Association.

A key precedent on the point is a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court case authored by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist that rejected the idea of establishing blanket immunity for statements of opinion. But it said that, among other things, there's no liability for "statements that cannot 'reasonably [be] interpreted as stating actual facts about' an individual."

Rehnquist held that at least in cases involving a media defendant, "a statement on matters of public concern must be provable as false before there can be liability" under state laws. His wording appeared to leave open the possibility of the court's using a different standard for non-media defendants.

Debrah said...

This is just Twilight Zone mania.

The ineptitude and corruption we know so well at the DPD and among Durham city officials seem to extend into the county.

Millions are wasted and the Triangle has read news accounts upon news accounts for years of theft, greed, and mismanagement.

How can such wasteful people in Durham County and the city of Durham object so strongly to the millions for which they are liable in the Lacrosse Hoax civil suits?

They should be used to this by now. It's how they do business.


Lack of supervision costs Sheriff's Office

Jan 17, 2008

It's a fairly basic principle of accounting. In any organization of more than a few employees, more than one person should be responsible for the money.

The policy makes a lot of sense, even though some employees may feel a little mistrusted. A few ruffled feelings are far better than to discover too late that a trusted employee has a hidden streak of larceny.

Too bad the Durham Sheriff's Office never got that memo.

Lax policies and inadequate supervision at the Sheriff's Office are being blamed for losses that may top $311,000, including $187,300 in misallocated funds and outright losses of around $124,000, according to an audit released by County Manager Mike Ruffin last week.

Former employee Kimberly D. Perkins, 27, was charged in May with embezzlement by a public officer, and is being blamed for much of the loss.

Until October, only one person -- Perkins -- was responsible for handling financial transactions within the office's civil division. The office takes in fees from fines and other items such as weapons permits. It also disperses money for, among other things, financial judgments awarded in court.

From 2004 until October -- the period covered by the audit -- Perkins was in charge of collecting money, recording accounts receivable and handling all complaints.

"I guess we were too trusting," Sheriff Worth Hill said. "It was a big mess how the office was handled in that area."

Unfortunately, the sheriff is right on both counts.

Ruffin praised Hill's cooperation and his reaction to the audit, which included implementing several of the auditor's recommendations.

We agree that it's laudable Sheriff Hill took the blame and took corrective action.

But it's also true that the public has the right to expect officials will be more careful stewards of public money. We have to wonder whether the outcry would have been stronger if a similar snafu had occurred at the city Police Department.

We're glad that proper accounting procedures are being put into place, but the truth is that this should never have happened in the first place. Imagine what would happen in a private business if a manager's misstep cost his or her company more than $311,000.

Anonymous said...

"If we've learned one thing from the Duke lacrosse scandal, it's that a rush to judgment "

Sure, Mr. Moss deserves his day in court and is innocent until proven guilty, you can go back a lot further than "Duke Lacrosse" to find these precedents!!

But one cannot develop a worse analogy for Moss than the Duke Lacrosse case. This analogy only highlights Moss' history of repeated abuses toward women...including assault on a traffic safety worker. These Duke boys are angels by comparison.

Debrah said...

There's one common feature among opinions of most people out there who do not, and have not, followed the lacrosse case as closely as many of us have.....

.....and who have not benefited from the detailed and concise coverage KC has long provided here.

Most people in the general public think the lacrosse case is over and the only real thing they took away from it is that Mike Nifong was a corrupt and dishonest district attorney.

This is a little frustrating and is also the main reason these civil suits are so significant.

The public needs to have the facts driven home to them that a whole city and its leaders, a police department, Duke University and an HBCU which are housed in Durham, provided enormous assistance to Nifong.

Ashley's local rag is also a given.

Without their support this Hoax could never have been sustained.

An example of how uninformed most people are......I went to a dermatologist last week for a break-out I had from a new moisturizer which was too strong for the Diva.

Since I don't have break-outs and never have, I decided to get a professional opinion.

Diagnosis: Yes! The moisturizer was for oily and troubled skin. Not for Diva skin!

The dermatologist was chatting me up (while he was padding the bill for an amount that shocked the Diva later), asking various Diva-inspired questions.

I mentioned that I had been spending much more time on the computer for the last two years keeping up with the lacrosse case.

His reply was that he thought it was long over.

This is a very intelligent guy who follows current events.

Duke and many in Durham have spent millions to keep the public as ignorant of the facts as this dermatologist.

The city of Durham can be expected to be just as zealous in their attempts to keep the sordid web of events from public scrutiny.

Anonymous said...

Duke Scandal: We Now Need Disclosure, Not Closure

Author: Michael J. Gaynor
Date: January 12, 2008

“Litigation is the hope for the truth to prevail. It beats confidential settlement, which is a type of complicity in coverup”

“The sooner the rest of the unindicted players sue Duke, the better. Delay is deadly.“

Anonymous said...

"Whats that rash, Doc?" Doc "We may never know" - applies to rashs and conspiracy theories.

Anonymous said...

Re: Moss

One of the Lacrosse defendants had a record too.

Means nothing when it comes down to the case at hand. And the lawyer of the lady pressing a civil (not criminal) case against Moss deserves some of the professors attention for his ethical breaches.

Anonymous said...

Tim DiPiero, the long-time agent and lawyer for Patriots receiver Randy Moss, has taken the gloves off regarding the ongoing legal brouhaha involving his client.

Here’s the full text of an e-mail message that DiPiero sent to Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe on Thursday night, and possibly to other members of the media regarding communications with the lawyer for Rachelle Washington:

“My communications with Mr. McGill began last Wednesday. He told me that Randy had intentionally hurt his client’s hand and wouldn’t take her to the hospital and that if Randy didn’t pay up, he would go public and file suit in Florida for battery. He gave me until 3 pm Friday to let him know. He demanded that I not come up with ’something like $50,000 or $75,000,’ but something with ’six figures.’ He had told me that the x-rays on her hand or finger were negative. I explained that it was my understanding that what occurred was the result of a horseplay-type accident and Randy was sorry it had occurred and he would pay for her medical bills and pain and suffering and that I would prefer to turn this over to his homeowners’ insurance coverage as we normally do with accidents. He said he was not interested in insurance or what her injuries were. He said he was evaluating the claim based on what Randy stood to lose. He threatened that Randy would suffer large amounts of money in future salaries and endorsements and what he claimed would be game suspensions.

“He also threatened that his client had lots of ‘dirt’ on him. Making such threats is clearly unethical, and in my opinion, criminal. When I tried to ascertain the extent of her injuries, he said that he didn’t know and that it didn’t matter as I just needed to make an offer big enough that she would take it. I sought the assistance of a skilled attorney and friend, Joe Friedberg of Minneapolis, who contacted a friend of his, Richard Sharpstein in Miami, to assist me. Each of them tried to talk to McGill and they both experienced the same attempts to shake down Randy. In fact, he tried to intimidate me by telling me that I would be blamed if the suit got filed. He said in a threatening tone that ‘it behooved me’ to make a big offer and he told me, ‘don’t blow it.’ On Friday afternoon, I contacted the FBI and the US Attorneys’ Offices here in Charleston about his threats. McGill claimed to be driving to the courthouse to file the complaint. I asked if by six figures, he meant $100,000 and he told me to quit ‘nickel and diming’ him. The filing time passed on Friday and he was upset that he had not filed before the Patriot game on Saturday. He kept pushing me to make a big offer. We asked him for a figure and after refusing for awhile, he gave us one, ‘$500,000, take it or leave it.’

“People who know me in West Virginia know that I have had a long relationship with Randy and that I care a great deal about him. His success this year on and off the field has been something those of us who are close to him have enjoyed immensely. The private, glowing reports I have received from folks in the Patriots organization about his daily work ethic and rapport with everyone there made us ecstatic for him, given the difficulties he’s had. The Patriot family has come to know him as we do. With this big game coming up and with the media frenzy that I figured would follow, as it has, I admit that I thought about advising Randy to just pay the $500,000. I knew that Randy, given all the positives this year, would not want this situation to hurt the Patriots, especially now, and to be a distraction for his teammates and would pay much more than he should for the sake of the team. Because I’m too close to the situation, I had to listen to the advice of Mr. Friedberg and Mr. Sharpstein who advised me, correctly, that to pay such an outrageous amount was not the right thing to do. We tried to meet with Mr. McGill on Monday, but he refused to do so. I still didn’t want Randy to face all this craziness, and naturally we wanted to settle this thing and were willing to pay an exorbitant amount to do so, so when he asked for an offer on Monday, we said, something to the effect, ‘you said six figures, how about $100,000?’ He said it had to be $500,000 or nothing. We told him to forget it. He had his client file the domestic petition the next day.

“I don’t want to add to the media frenzy, but I must respond to Mr. McGill’s recent inaccurate statement. I want the U. S. Attorneys Offices in Miami and Charleston, the Prosecuting Attorney of Dade County and the Florida State Bar, whoever has jurisdiction over Mr. McGill’s conduct, to know that I am ready to meet with any and all of them and to testify regarding the blatant threats and attempts to extort money from my client.”