the most startling of the many such assertions made by author William D. Cohan
to “Morning Joe” was his statement that he found Mike Nifong “quite credible.” This
is the same Mike Nifong who a State Bar panel determined violated ethics rules
on 27 of 32 counts. And it’s the same Mike Nifong found guilty of contempt for
lying to a judge in open court. If this is the sort of figure that Cohan deems
credible, how could anyone be non-credible in Cohan’s eyes?
(Well, anyone except the defense attorneys, I suppose.)
In the event, Cohan’s deep admiration for Nifong colors the entire book. The author gives his hero every benefit of the doubt, and then some, in a desperate effort to rehabilitate the disgraced ex-prosecutor’s reputation.
While the players that he persecuted get basically no
personal introduction (a survey of frat culture seems to suffice, in Cohan’s mind), Nifong
receives a glowing, 15-page introduction that portrays him as a wonderful
family man and a champion of civil rights. Virtually the only new item here (apart from the spin) came from a
revelation of Nifong bitterness with Duke: he intended to go there, didn’t get
as much financial aid as he expected, appealed the decision and thought he was
right, but Duke still didn’t give him the money.
Later on, Nifong claimed (p. 97) that there was a “kernel of
truth” that Duke students got unfair positive treatment from the justice
system, and he was intent to ensure that didn’t happen. He provided no evidence
for the assertion, and Cohan apparently didn’t ask for any.
Cohan also surveys Nifong’s pre-2006 career. This section
contains no mention of the Darryl Howard case
—which naturally wouldn’t fit into
the book’s strongly positive portrayal of Nifong. Cohan likewise doesn’t mention the
earlier sexual assault cases that Nifong had dismissed or pled down, contrary
to the theory of justice Nifong employed in the lacrosse case.
On the personal front, his daughter from his first
marriage—the woman that Nifong initially didn’t mention in his campaign
literature—gets one sentence, all in parenthesis. It looks like even Cohan
couldn’t spin Nifong’s treatment of her.
In the background section, Cohan lets Nifong go on and on
and on about the proper way to try rape cases, and how sometimes prosecutors
won’t have “forensic evidence” (p. 91), especially in acquaintance rape cases.
The relevance of any of this to the lacrosse case is zero.
Nifong’s Blame Game
Given Cohan’s approach—allowing Nifong to present whatever he wants to say, virtually without challenge—much of the book includes Nifong playing the blame game at anyone who in any way crossed him during the lacrosse case. Even more remarkable, Cohan not only allows Nifong (the convicted liar) to lash out at his critics at will, but the author (who told Bloomberg TV, “I talked to anybody who would talk to me”) appears not to have even requested comment from virtually any of Nifong’s targets.
- On the wording of the NTO, and its (correct, given the facts of the case) promise that the DNA tests would reveal guilt or innocence, Nifong blames ADA David Saacks, saying that Saacks had “never dealt with a rape case,” and he shouldn’t have “allowed” such language “to remain in a nontestimonial.” Needless to say, Nifong never gave any hint of such sentiments before the DNA tests came back negative. (p. 78) Cohan gives no indication that he contacted Saacks for comment.
- On his statement to then-campaign manager Jackie Brown, that he was receiving a “million dollars” worth of publicity from the case, Nifong implies that Brown (p. 135) lied: “I’m pretty sure that I never made any comment like that to her.” Cohan gives no indication that he contacted Brown for comment.
- Nifong faults Linwood Wilson(!)—supposedly an “experienced investigator” (p. 446)—for mishandling the December 20, 2006 solo interview with Mangum. The widespread backlash to that interview, of course, accelerated the process by which Nifong was removed. Cohan gives no indication that he contacted Wilson for comment.
- Nifong accuses Lane Williamson (p. 559) of having pre-judged his ethics case, and having written part of Nifong’s sentencing memo even before Nifong testified at the Bar hearing. Cohan gives no indication that he contacted Williamson for comment.
- Nifong charges (p. 579) that the State Bar “exists for the purpose of protecting the rich lawyers from the people,” and that “it was a situation where they [it’s not clear who ‘they’ are] really sold out to the monied interest of the state bar.” Cohan gives no indication that he contacted anyone from the State Bar for comment.
- Nifong claims that Osmond Smith pre-judged his criminal contempt trial, and told people at a cookout that he was planning to sentence Nifong to 30 days in jail. Cohan gives no indication that he contacted Smith for comment.
- Nifong scoffs (p. 573) that Charles Davis, in prosecuting his criminal contempt trial, was incompetent and “the most inept that I had ever seen.” (Nifong was found guilty in this trial.) Cohan gives no indication that he contacted Davis for comment.
- Nifong accuses the defense attorneys (p. 578) for having engaged in behavior that “was not really appropriate and it was not really permissible.” Nifong doesn’t say what this improper behavior was, nor does Cohan appear to have asked him. Cohan gives no indication that he contacted any of the defense attorneys for comment.
- Nifong blames the lacrosse players(!) for all his problems, since they started the affair by refusing Gottlieb’s March 2006 demand (p. 576) to meet with him without attorneys present.
Anyone who followed the case understood how contemptuously
Nifong treated the late Kirk Osborn. The bullying DA was afraid of Joe Cheshire, but
didn’t seem to fear Osborn, and so went out of his way to put Osborn down. In
the book, however, Cohan portrays Nifong as deeply concerned with Osborn’s
well-being. Two examples:
First: Cohan relates (p. 439) an alleged conversation
between Nifong and Osborn—which, of course, relies wholly upon the recollection
of a convicted liar. A “very agitated” Osborn, looking “very unhealthy” and not
“like himself” (Cohan’s Nifong even touchingly asked Osborn if he was on
medication) privately met with Nifong and implied to him that the Bar complaint
would go forward unless Nifong called a public press conference to say that
Mangum was not telling the truth. The alleged episode proved Nifong’s claim
that the Bar was “really acting as an agent for the defense lawyers.”
Second: Cohan passes on (as usual, uncorroborated)
assertions from Nifong (third-hand, in this instance) that the Seligmanns
“never” paid either Kirk Osborn or Buddy Conner. How did this story get past
Scribner’s in-house counsel? Cohan asks us to believe that Buddy Conner never
got paid, and never filed any sort of claim against the Seligmanns, and that
Jim Cooney knew all this and did nothing. Naturally, Cohan gives no evidence of
having asked Cooney if Nifong’s ruminations were true. The charge is
non-credible, even for Cohan and Nifong.
(I should note, by the way, that I have every reason to
believe that Cohan’s assertion that Osborn and Conner were “never” paid is untrue,
quite apart from the claim’s logical inconsistencies.)
Minimizing Exposés of Nifong
Cohan’s extraordinary sympathy for Nifong infuses all
aspects of the book; it provides the only plausible explanation for a host of
the author’s editorial choices.
Along these lines: Jim Coleman’s extremely important June2006 denunciation of Nifong
—in an interview with the N&O
, and a long letter—gets rushed over in three sentences.
Cohan doesn’t even bother to explain why
wanted Nifong to step aside (p. 364), in what was a turning-point moment in the
case. Of course, an author committed to propping Nifong up would find Coleman
very difficult to challenge—far better to minimize him. Coleman gets more
attention later in the book, but at that point his remarks were less
Joe Neff—mentioned only once in the entire book by name(!)—suffers
a similar fate. How otherwise could a Nifong apologist address Neff’s many
biting exposés? Instead, Cohan settles for criticizing Neff’s work by
implication: the author dismisses (p. 435) the Neff/Niolet/Blythe article on the day
after the bombshell Meehan hearing as “nearly breathless,” without explaining
why it was so, or even quoting from the article—and even as the article accurately predicted that the hearing
could cause Nifong problem with the Bar. Via the wayback machine, here is a link to the article that Cohan deems “nearly breathless
.” It describes what happened at the hearing better than the presentation in the Cohan manuscript.
In his discussion of the election results, Cohan quotes (p.
425) Beth Brewer (co-chair of the Recall Nifong effort): “I hope the North
Carolina State Bar will do what the Durham citizens could not.” How does Cohan
describe this rather straightforward statement, one fully in line with Brewer’s
statements over a several-month period? That Brewer was “nearly apoplectic.” Cohan
doesn’t seem to have tried to interview Brewer to get a sense of her mindset.
As he goes out of his way to treat Nifong favorably, Cohan can barely
conceal his contempt when referencing statements of actions by the defense
attorneys. Three of many examples:
In a discussion of Dr. Julie Manly coming to doubt a rape
had occurred once she realized it was likely yeast and not semen that she had
detected on Mangum’s body (p. 33), Cohan writes, “There were other possible
explanations for the swelling, as attorneys for the athletes were only too happy
to point out later.” [emphasis
Here’s how Cohan describes the defense attorneys’ December
2006 change of venue motion (p. 431): it addressed, he sneered, “the so-called facts
of the lacrosse case.” [emphasis
added] He does not identify a single item in the motion, or in any defense
motion, that was inaccurate.
Here’s Cohan on the criminal contempt finding (p. 573): “As
usual, the defense attorneys crowed
Judge Smith’s findings.” [emphasis added] These are people, it’s worth noting,
who exposed massive prosecutorial misconduct and ensured that innocent people
didn’t go to jail.
In a promotional interview for the book
, Cohan has charged that the defense attorneys were “masters at manipulating
the media,” [emphasis added] without identifying any improper actions that they took, or any inaccurate statement that they made. Just as with his “something
happened” assertion, he does not make this claim directly in the book, operating
by inference instead. Perhaps such inflammatory and misleading language could not clear Scribner’s
The book moves into a kind of alternate reality whenever it
discusses the State Bar proceedings against Nifong. Perhaps the strangest
section of the Bar material comes when Cohan uses Nifong—a reminder: the defendant
—to provide a behind-the-scenes
account of the Bar
’s legal strategy. “In
an interview,” Cohan writes (p. 554), “Nifong said he was told the original
plan was to have David Evans testify at the state bar hearing, not Seligmann.”
told Nifong this? Who knows? The “definitive, magisterial” book on the case has
little interest in how Nifong gained access to the Bar prosecutors’ internal
strategy. Nor does Cohan explain why he simply didn’t ask the Bar’s own attorneys if he wanted a behind-the-scenes take on their strategy. As with Jim Coman in the AG’s office, Cohan’s preferred approach appears to have been refraining from asking questions of people who might discredit Nifong’s latest ruminations.
Cohan then allows Nifong to accuse Seligmann of perjury (p.
554) in his testimony. “Not everything he said was true . . . some of the
things that he said about the party, we had other things to show otherwise.” Cohan
produces this passage even as Nifong refuses to give him the specifics of the
alleged perjury. Nor does Cohan ask the obvious question, of either Nifong or
Nifong attorney Anne Petersen: if the Nifong team had evidence that Seligmann
lied, why didn’t they address the matter in cross-examination?
In the event, given that Cohan has produced what his publisher deemed the “definitive,
magisterial” study of the lacrosse case, surely he didn’t need Nifong to
identify the portion of Seligmann’s testimony that constituted perjury. Why,
then, didn’t the author simply identify the statement himself? Could it be,
perhaps, that Seligmann actually didn’t lie in any way, shape, or form before the Bar?
The discussions about the Bar hearing aren’t the only
sections of the book in which Cohan’s heavy partiality toward Nifong causes him
to uncritically pass along absurd claims. Another is Nifong’s assertion (p.
571) that a desire to ensure that [former governor] Mike Easley won’t look bad”
explained his criminal contempt trial. (Easley was, at the time, under
investigation for a campaign finance violation for which he would eventually be
Cohan, of course, produces no evidence to corroborate this .
. . remarkable . . . claim.
Cohan writes (p. 615) that the “book would likely not have
been possible” without the “inspiration” of a Nifong friend, who compiled “a
lengthy oral history of the Duke lacrosse case from Mike Nifong’s perspective.”
Much like Cohan, this Nifong associate does not appear to have interviewed
anyone on the other side in the courtroom or at the State Bar.
At some point, either Cohan himself or an editor at
Scribner’s must have decided that the manuscript was so transparently pro-Nifong that the author needed to toss in some token criticism.
Cohan’s strongest rebuke of Nifong in the book is a
two-sentence, wholly parenthetical, remark on p. 413, about the October hearing.
Cohan writes, “(During the hearing Nifong realized he appeared to be in the
situation where he said he had spoken to Mangum about the case while at the
same time saying his conversations had not yet been substantive. He seemed fine
with the apparent contradiction.)”
most direct criticism of Nifong, in Cohan’s own voice, that the author can
muster. No wonder that Nifong (p. 614) gushed to Cohan, “I’d like
for [my son] to meet you someday.”
A final note, from page 83: “It was from being forced to stand his ground that Nifong developed a lifelong disdain for bullies.” Cohan passes along this observation—about Durham’s biggest bully, circa 2006—without comment. Indeed, it appears as if he didn’t even notice the irony.
A final note, from page 83: "It was from being forced to stand his ground that Nifong developed a lifelong disdain for bullies."
When Nifong's birthday (September 14) was drawn first in the 1969 Draft Lottery, he suddenly became a conscientious objector. Somehow, that doesn't square with standing one's ground against bullies.
Cohan, I can dig up obscure facts about people too.
Just unbelievable. This account that Cohan has written should make one wonder about the truthfulness of his other books.
Like Nifong, a person does not just start lying one day. No, the liar has been in him all along.
"It was from being forced to stand his ground that Nifong developed a lifelong disdain for bullies."
Amazing how many people who grab positions of institutional power claim a dislike of bullies for their motive.
In my observation, people who REALLY hate bullies develop a healthy respect (and capacity) for PERSONAL self-defense.
Cohan is an example of an intellectual snob who is incapable of admitting he is wrong. I thought Kenhyderal was the epitome of someone who chooses to be blind to the truth. Cohan has him beat.
While I agree with your overall point, I depart from your assessment on one small point. Specifically, while Cohan may be a "snob," he is certainly not "intellectual" in any way, shape, or form. If anything, he's a mere, ass-clown, toadie, hack simply trying to peddle a book.
Anonymous at 8:27 AM said...
If anything, he's a mere, ass-clown, toadie, hack simply trying to peddle a book.
Starting to see fewer book descriptions as 'magisterial' and 'definitive', and more references in re: Cohan as a fluffer and having kneepads.
"Nifong blames ADA David Saacks, saying that Saacks had “never dealt with a rape case,” and he shouldn’t have “allowed” such language “to remain in a nontestimonial.”
Sounds like Nifong came verrrry close here to admitting that he'd seen the NTO before 'accidentally finding it on the office copier' after it had been completed.
No need to spend money on Cohan's book.
You can read the same lies, fantasies, distortions at justice4nifong.com.
Both illustrate : No truth, but lots of agenda and meme.
'defense attorneys were “masters at manipulating the media,” '
People often accuse others of the very thing they do but which they are blind to, or would deny.
The only way they could have manipulated the media was with Duke's assistance.
I would say one of the best working definitions of "bully" one could find would be someone who has prosecutorial power and uses it against transparently innocent people for his own self-aggrandizement. Apparently Nifong's lifelong disdain wasn't so powerful to be an issue when he was involved.
I confess that I bought Cohan's book the other day. I already regret doing so. The first chapter was actually a very comprehensive and readable account of the events of March 13-14, 2006. Then, at the very end, Cohan states that it seems clear that- wait for it- SOMETHING happened to Mangum in that bathroom that evening.
I was like, huh? In his narrative, Cohan actually gives plenty of information to support the fact that NOTHING could have happened to Mangum, i.e. she spent hardly any time outside of Kim Roberts's presence, she seemed more concerned about her missing purse than any kind of assualt she just endured, her multiple contradictory stories. But Cohan just blindly leaps to his conclusion.
I share Bill Anderson's concern that this HAS to call into question the credibility of Cohan's other books, two of which I have read and liked. It's remarkable that he's taken this very unfortuante turn. And that other mainstream media outlets are letting him get away wth it. I was infuriated at that softball interview on Morning Joe the othr day.
I'm reading the book, have reached page 284. In a way the book is schizophrenic. Cohan shows Nifong doubling down on TV interviews after learning there is no DNA match with the "Duke Lax Bros."
In the book, Nifong receives black endorsements by promising to prosecute without any evidence. Cohan writes this, but draws no conclusion aside from inferring that Nifong is doing the right thing.
How could a serious writer portray Nifong favorably? IMO the search for the Great White Defendant(s) trumps everything to Cohan and media types of his persuasion.
The democratic party wants to take NC 'back' from the Duke Republican Governor since he turned out to not be as democratic as thought/promised? ...
Cohan's book is being annihilated by knowledgeable reviewers on Amazon.
As of today, of 18 reviews, 15 are "one-star" (the lowest rating you can give).
Particularly noticeable is the amount of knowledge shown by these critical reviewers of the history, verifiable facts, and conclusions to be drawn therefrom regarding the Lacrosse Rape Hoax.
I would bet a cheeseburger (my largest bet) that KC Johnson, and this blog, must take immense credit for creating a cadre of attentive listeners with the willingness and the means to react to such a trashy performance.
It has all been worth it.
Just like to Duke to publish a book that claims or misleads that Ms. Mangum is a murderer during her ongoing murder trial where they are more likely the killers due to their own malpractice than she is. Seriously? What BS and how insulting to the intelligence of All Americans and the USA justice system.
To the 10:02,
Is guiowen a Communist?
Wouldn't you like to know?
I have never commented on this or any other blog about the Nifong case, but feel compelled to do so now. I did not prejudge Mike Nifong: rather,I evaluated the evidence presented at the hearing to reach my conclusions. I wrote no part of my concluding remarks prior to the end of the hearing: those were extemporaneous except for a few notes that I made during the panel's deliberation following closing arguments on the punishment phase of the hearing. Mr. Cohan has never contacted me.
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