Friday, September 09, 2011

Cline on Nifong & Lacrosse Case: “I Think I May Have Generally Given Him Suggestions"

The N&O has released audio of a lengthy (more than two hours) discussion between DA Tracey Cline and N&O journalists. Virtually the entire interview dealt with the ethical breaches revealed in the “Twisted Truth” series. But for 5 minutes, 32 seconds, the two discussed the lacrosse case. Here’s the audio excerpt:

Four particularly striking items from the interview.

First: As you’ll see if you listen to the above, Cline is very, very careful about what she says. After N&O reporter Andrew Curliss initially brought up the topic, she almost snarled, biting out, “What do you mean, my role in the Duke lacrosse [case]?” She then repeatedly paused (a couple of times for a significant period), cut herself off, and retreated to generalities.

Second: Contradicting both the DNA evidence and the attorney general’s findings, Cline described the case as “acquaintance rape situation.” In an acquaintance rape claim, of course, both sides acknowledge that sexual contact occurred, and the only question at play is a matter of consent.

Third: While Cline consistently refused to give a direct opinion on Crystal Mangum’s various tall tales, Curliss noted (correctly) that her description of a prosecutor’s role—a willingness to try hard cases despite a lack of evidence, as long as the prosecutor believes in the “victim”—is almost identical to how Nifong described his motivation in the lacrosse case. Curliss then noticed that Cline was smiling, and asked her why. She coyly responded, “I’m just smiling.”

Fourth: Further confirming her reputation for slipperiness with the truth, Cline managed to offer differing descriptions about three aspects of her role in the case—again, in less than six minutes. The contradictions:

Whether She Had Any Involvement in the Case

Cline claimed that she never talked to Nifong about why he took the case, even though, as the chief sexual assault prosecutor for the county, the case normally would have been assigned to her. Cline further claimed that the case simply “didn’t come to my desk.”

But earlier in the interview, she conceded that the case “was originally going to be mine,” and that, originally, the case did come to her desk. She admitted that she had been the prime mover behind the ethically dubious NTO (which operated under the premise that even lacrosse players for whom the state had no evidence were even in Durham that evening could be required to give DNA).

Whether She Discussed the Case with Nifong

When asked directly about whether she spoke to Nifong regarding the case, Cline confessed, “I think I may have generally given him suggestions,” although she refused to reveal the content of those discussions. But then, less than a minute later and after a lengthy pause, she seemed to deny that she had spoken to Nifong about the case: “If he had asked my opinion, I would have given it to him.”

Whether She Would Have Tried the Case with Nifong

At the start of the discussion, Cline seemed to concede that she would have served as second chair at trial, recalling that “Mike had asked me if the case went to trial if I would help him, because he hadn’t tried a case in a long time.” But then, less than two minutes later, she denied that she would have served as second chair, telling Curliss, “I don’t think so.” She offered no explanation for why this was so, or who would have served as second chair in the trial if she had not done so.

A critical point: this interview occurred on the 28th of July. According to the e-mail stream released by the N&O, at the time of this discussion, Curliss hadn’t uncovered the tape of a 2007 exchange between Cline and the N&O’s Michael Biesecker, in which Cline apparently commented on the lacrosse case. What did she say? Would her 2007 remarks contradict what she told the N&O reporters in 2011? And why has she refused to respond to at least five requests (two from the N&O and three from me) to release the tape?


Anonymous said...

David Saacks was called to testify at Nifong's bar hearing. Why wasn't Cline
called (especially considering her relevance as likely second chair)?

kcjohnson9 said...

To the 6.22:

As I recall (and I'm operating wholly for memory here), Cline also was going to testify, but the testimony of both Cline & Saacks was no longer necessary after Nifong decided not to contest the disbarment.

Anonymous said...

Do you think she will be disbarred?

Anonymous said...

I certainly hope that Cline is on one of the plaintiff's deposition lists. The screws are finally beginning to tighten on these ass-clowns.

skwilli said...

Victims, acquaintances, sexual contact, ...

Can't demonstrably fallacious statements be used against her in some way? Unless she can demonstrate she meant the lacrosse players as victims, they had a previous relationship with the two dancers or the 4 or 5 sexual contacts Mangum had with others prior to her pitiful dance routine.

Anonymous said...

Bah! These new N&O articles don't speak well of Cline, but I still don't see her as a major player in the Duke Lacrosse fiasco. Nifong was her boss -- did we really expect her to contradict him in public? She may have learned corrupt practices from Nifong, but she hardly instigated them in the Duke case.

Meanwhile, the pathetic and frightening truth is that Cline has no rivals -- she ran unopposed the last time, and I expect the same to be true next time.

And for that matter, Nifong infamously won re-election with no "real" opponent even after any thinking person could see that Nifong was a criminal.

The truth is, no good lawyer wants the job of Durham County prosecutor -- it's essentially a zookeeper job, presiding over a system that, at best, will breed more bloody crimes and criminals than before the prosecutor took office. I have personally heard many Durham lawyers say this, at Bar meetings. What I dare to say here, is that Durham is lucky to have anybody at all take that job.

If we have a slightly rotten prosecutor, it's because she holds a very, very rotten job, fighting a tide of criminality that is relentless. Does this excuse violating the rights of innocent citizens? Absolutely not, but if anybody thinks they can do a better job, let them come forward.

Gary Packwood said...

I can't imagine that an elected official would become their own spin-doctor unless they were dreaming that their recorded words and narratives would eventually get to the ears and eyes of their core and conservative constituency.

In this case retired African America Blacks who are said to pray about everything and ... vote.

Anonymous said...

Why must the N&O obtain Cline's consent to release the tape of the 2007 interview? Was it agreed to as a condition or does she possess the tape instead?