Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cohan & Mangum's Credibility

William D. Cohan’s book tour has featured a full-throated defense of prosecutorial misconduct. The prosecutor who withheld exculpatory evidence in violation of North Carolina law is, instead, “honorable.” The district attorney who lied in open court to a judge is, instead, “quite credible.”

But another, less-noticed aspect of the publicity tour has been Cohan’s deeming credible convicted murder Crystal Mangum. (After citing Mangum’s belief that a crime occurred, Cohan proclaimed, “And I believe something happened in that bathroom,” at 3.05.) Cohan now appears to believe that as long as an accuser and “somebody like” William D. (“I’m-not-a-lawyer”) Cohan want a case to go to trial—even if the prosecutors in the case believe the defendants are innocent—the case must proceed to trial. He has referenced Mike Nifong and Tara Levicy believing earlier versions of the Mangum tales as well.

This vision of justice would reconfigure the judicial system, giving the accuser a near-absolute discretion on deciding when and how to try cases. But it reflects the stated conception of Cohan’s guide on what constitutes appropriate prosecutorial behavior, Mike Nifong, who justified his behavior in the lacrosse case by asserting, “If she says, yes, it’s them, or one or two of them, I have an obligation to put that to a jury.”

In the event, it might have been expected that at some point in his publicity tour Cohan would have been asked the obvious question: “Which of Mangum’s myriad, mutually contradictory tales do you find credible?” Perhaps the interviewers (not unreasonably) have assumed that Mangum has basically told the same story throughout the case. In fact, she’s never told the same story twice, and has offered seven radically different versions of events. It remains unclear which of these seven Cohan finds credible, although it appears as if leans toward Version #7, presented in a jailhouse interview around six years after the alleged events and after versions 1 through 6 had been decimated by inconsistencies and exculpatory evidence.

A note: especially in the first night to various police officers and medical officials, Mangum also told many incomplete versions of what occurred, including suggestions that 20 people raped her. At one point, she also claimed that there were four, not two, dancers. Altogether, Mangum has told more than a dozen different stories.


In addition to these various segments of a story to Durham police officers and Durham Access officials, Mangum gave three versions of attack (her session with SANE-nurse-in-training Tara Levicy; her original interview with Gottlieb and Himan; and her official statement) before the indictments. In each session, there were three attackers named Adam, Brett, and Matt. In her official police statement, moreover, Mangum mentioned a fourth attacker, “Dan,” who at an earlier stage had been an attacker who used a pseudonym. But neither police nor Nifong considered the claim credible, since by that point Nifong had given myriad interviews asserting there were three attackers. A month from the primary, he couldn’t have suddenly changed the number of attackers from three to four.

Who did what varied widely in the three stories:
  • A green X corresponds to the story that Mangum told Tara Levicy on March 14, 2006.
  • A blue Y corresponds to the story that Mangum told Gottlieb and Officer Ben Himan on March 16, 2006.
  • A red Z corresponds to the story that Mangum provided in her April 6, 2006 official statement.





Mangum, in short, described three quite different “attacks.”

Mangum provided her most detailed contemporaneous descriptions to Himan two days after the alleged attack; two of the three “attackers” did not even remotely resemble any of the charged students. On an elite Division I athletics team, Mangum had one of her attackers as short and chubby and a second weighing 260-270 pounds.

For credibility purposes, moreover, file away three items: (1) In her first two recapitulations of the “attack,” Mangum claimed that one or more “attackers” ejaculated in her mouth, something that would be rather difficult to do if her attackers wore condoms or used an object; (2) Mangum repeatedly suggested that one of her attackers was going to get married—a claim that might have made her more believable if the event were a bachelor party (as she thought it was) but which instead served as a tip-off she was lying; (3) In none of these early versions (nor in her fragmentary tales on the night of 14 March) did Mangum suggest that her attackers used an object.


Mangum’s next story came less than a week after the revelation that Nifong and Dr. Meehan had conspired to withhold exculpatory DNA evidence. In this version (provided in a one-on-one interview with Linwood Wilson), Mangum said she couldn’t recall if her attackers penetrated her (even though she had originally claimed two had ejaculated in her mouth). Dave Evans was suddenly described as performing acts Mangum previously had attributed to three different people (Matt, Brett, and Adam); the number of attackers was just as suddenly reduced from three to two. The story changed in other critical ways as well, all seemingly to conform to or explain away exculpatory evidence released between April and December 2006, and the bombshell DNA testimony in the Meehan hearing.

Special Prosecutors

Mangum told yet another story to the special prosecutors (the people Cohan falsely reported were “blindsided” by the declaration of innocence). Here, Mangum bumped the number of attackers back up to three. For the first time, she asserted that the assault occurred while she was being held in mid-air by her “attackers.” She now, for the first time, claimed that she also had been tossed onto the back porch and kicked in the neck by all three attackers. And she offered a variety of new claims about the timeline that contradicted unimpeachable electronic evidence, including moving the time of her arrival up by an hour. She bizarrely claimed that Duke (for reasons and through methods unknown) altered the time-clocks on the cameras used to provide a time-line of the night.

For good measure, and contrary to photographic evidence, Mangum claimed that Evans and Finnerty placed her in Kim Roberts’ car.

The Mangum Opus

Magnum provided a sixth significant version in her long forgotten book, which Cohan amazingly labels a “must-read” on the case. In that document, she asserted (for the first time) that one of her attackers deliberately ejaculated on the floor, apparently to manipulate her story to account for the DNA of an unindicted lacrosse player found in the bathroom. She claimed that her attackers used racial epithets inside the house, a claim never made by Kim Roberts and one only inconsistently made by Mangum. She for the first time suggested that despite a photo showing her locked out of the house, she actually had been locked inside the house. She speculated about secret DNA evidence.

The book also completed a whiplash-like role for Kim Roberts in the case, who transitioned from accomplice in the rape to neutral bystander to fellow victim back to accomplice.

William D. Cohan

Finally, in a jailhouse interview with author Cohan (pp. 518-520), Mangum provided a seventh version of events. She now asserted that the attack had occurred with a broomstick—a claim she had never made before—and that it had left wooden shards, which medical officials needed to remove from her body. No such evidence was recorded, even from the always-eager-to-oblige Tara Levicy. Though Cohan has treated Levicy’s report as virtually unimpeachable in virtually all other respects, he has been willing to entertain Mangum’s jailhouse assertions.

In the book, perhaps at the insistence of fact-checkers, Cohan conceded that Levicy’s report did not mention wooden shards. Yet in his publicity appearances, freed from whatever constraints that Scribner’s imposed upon him, Cohan has gone out of his way to imply that Mangum’s newest story is reasonable. Gone have been the mentions of Levicy’s report contradicting Mangum’s claims, replaced by lines like this one, from the Diane Rehm Show, when Cohan was directly asked (at 11.22) if medical evidence corroborated the new storyline: “I mean, there was discussion about a broomstick and the threat of using a broomstick.”

Indeed, Cohan told Rehm and her listeners (at 11.21) that the Mangum broomstick tale was “fact [emphasis added] number one” about the case.

In Version #7, Mangum also returned to a claim that at least one of her attackers ejaculated in her mouth, undercutting the Levicy/Nifong theory that the attackers might have used condoms. But she now conceded that “it’s a possibility that I may have picked the wrong people,” suggesting that two of her attackers were behind her and implying for the first time that she never really saw their faces. This statement alone expands author Cohan’s theory of criminal justice to the following situation: when the prosecutors believe the defendants are innocent, and when the accuser changes her story multiple times and admits she may have picked the wrong people, those people still must stand trial.

Regarding two constant-inconsistencies in the Mangum tales, to Cohan she appeared to have dropped the claim that one of her attackers was about to get married. (Now that she knows she was not dancing a bachelor party, the assertion serves no purpose.) And Kim Roberts, initially an attacker, then a neutral party, then a fellow victim, then back to an accomplice, by Version #7 returned to a status of neutral observer, waiting outside in the car as Mangum was attacked.

For good measure, and contrary to both photographic evidence [two unindicted players] and what she had told the special prosecutors [Evans and Finnerty], Mangum told Cohan that Seligmann (on video an an ATM machine at about this time) in fact had placed her in Kim Roberts’ car. She had never offered that assertion before.

So which of these seven versions of events does Cohan think the prosecution should have taken to trial?


Anonymous said...

How about perjury trials for Nifong and Mangum?

Oh, yeah, she's "got mental problems" and he's "got immunity".

How convenient.

William L. Anderson said...

Nifong would not have immunity in testimony given at the bar hearing nor at the contempt hearing in September, 2007. Neither would he have immunity regarding anything he said under oath during depositions.

It would not have been difficult, legally speaking, to have indicted Nifong for perjury, but it would have been politically difficult. As we can see, there is a sizable group of people out there, especially on the Left, that want to believe his lies.

Shortly after the case had ended, Counterpunch, the quasi-Marxist web publication, had a piece that tried to make Nifong and Crystal look credible. I confronted the late publisher of Counterpunch during an event in Reston in 2007. It didn't turn out well, but at least I tried.

(Counterpunch did publish my piece, "The Railroading of Tonya Craft" in April 2010. It was briefly featured in a story on the Today Show about Craft and the trial. She was acquitted in a trial that saw prosecutorial misconduct committed on a scale that made Nifong look nearly honest.)

Anonymous said...

Latest tally from Amazon for William Cohan's latest work:

Seven 5 star
Three 4 star
FIFTY ONE 1 star

Has any other book sold by Amazon ever done so well?

Anonymous said...

I repeat my suggestion from yesterday: I suggest a live Oxford-style debate between KCJ and WDC on the PBS/NPR program "Intelligence Squared."

Anonymous said...

I have not read the book, but does Cohan in the book reference the Justice4Nifong website and Sidney Harr? Because this group is saying almost the same things. It is like Cohan is following this group verbatim.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't anyone think it sad that author WIlliam Cohan shows he has the acumen of people like Crystal Mangum and Mike Nifong?

Anonymous said...

"This case needs a trial."

The above refrain came from one Ted Williams, a Washington D.C.-based defense attorney who frequently appeared on Greta Van Susteren's TV show commenting on the Duke Lacrosse case.

Williams said this late in 2006 after Nifong's case, such as it was, had imploded. This had become the fall back position of those who jumped on the original bandwagon.

Cohan is actually claiming it was an injustice for Roy Cooper and the special prosecutors to dismiss the case. He says there should have been a trial.

Well, if all the evidence points to the innocence of the accused, the proper course of action is to dismiss the case.

Trial Junkie

William L. Anderson said...

Criminal trials are not held to satisfy public curiosity. They are held when the prosecution claims to believe that the accused has committed a criminal violation of the law.

As K.C. has so aptly pointed out, neither Mary Winstead nor James Coman believed that any crimes had been committed, at least by the lacrosse players. Thus, it would have been illegal for them to bring the case to trial and they could have been subject to criminal prosecution themselves or at least severe discipline by the North Carolina State Bar.

Furthermore, K.C. is correct regarding Cohan's claim that his book is the missing "trial." Instead, it is a collection of lies, smears, and innuendos, not to mention some really stupid and pathetic writing. And this guy is a "star" in the New York literary set? I guess American writers are not what they used to be.

skwilli said...

In one sense I'm elated to have daily posts from KC. In another sense, I'm horrified that we have daily posts from KC. That we still have ANYONE backing Nifong and Mangum at this time is proof that my pappy was right when he said "the masses are asses." Cohan should be ashamed of himself. But having KC toy with him and his reputation is like the train wreck you just can't turn away from.

Anonymous said...

Did Cohan interview Tara Levicy?

Am not about to buy his rag to find out.

Is Cohan a Communist?

Is levicy a Communist?

kcjohnson9 said...

To the 2.47:

1.) He didn't interview Levicy.

2.) Don't know :)

3.) Don't know :)

Anonymous said...

Wendy Murphy, one of the something happened advocates, was trumpeting that Nifong would publish a book blowing the lid off the case. I wonder where Wendy has been. It is significant that she can not or will not endorse Cohan's book