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Mike Nifong, the prosecutor who doggedly pursued the now-debunked Duke University lacrosse team rape case, was a "minister of injustice" who wove "a web of deception," a state bar prosecutor said in closing statements Saturday at Nifong's ethics trial. If convicted, the disciplinary hearing committee could suspend Nifong's law license or take it away entirely. Nifong told the panel hearing the case Friday that he would resign from his post as Durham County district attorney over his handling of the rape charges.

"Mr. Nifong did not act as a minister of justice, but as a minister of injustice," state bar prosecutor Douglas Brocker said Saturday morning.

Brocker told the disciplinary hearing committee that as Nifong investigated allegations that a stripper was raped at a March 2006 party thrown by Duke's lacrosse team, he charged "forward toward condemnation and injustice," weaving a "web of deception that has continued up through this hearing."

The bar charged Nifong, a prosecutor in Durham County for his entire three-decade legal career, with breaking several rules of professional conduct, including lying to both the court and bar investigators and withholding critical DNA test results from the players' defense attorneys.

Those DNA tests found genetic material from several males in the accuser's underwear and body, but none from any lacrosse player. Even though he was aware of those results, Nifong still pressed ahead with the case and won indictments against Dave Evans, Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty.

State prosecutors later concluded the three players were "innocent" victims of a rogue prosecutor's "tragic rush to accuse."

Nifong acknowledged Friday he was likely to be punished by the disciplinary committee for maybe getting "carried away a little bit" when talking publicly about the case. He said he regretted some of his statements, including a confident proclamation that he wouldn't allow Durham to become known for "a bunch of lacrosse players from Duke raping a black girl."

Brocker pounded on such comments Saturday, saying Nifong had to have known he was making improper comments to reporters.

"They (were) clearly going to cause public condemnation of anybody who was charged," Brocker said.

Brocker also focused on when Nifong learned about the full extent of the DNA test results and when he shared that information with the defense.

Nifong gave defense attorneys an initial report on the DNA testing in May 2006 that said private lab DNA Security Inc. had been unable to find a conclusive match between the accuser and any lacrosse players.

But lab director Brian Meehan testified this week that he told Nifong as early as April 10, 2006 _ a week before Seligmann and Finnerty were indicted _ about the more detailed test results.

"The positive results were the truth," Brocker said. "They just weren't the whole truth."

Nifong testified that when he gave the defense the initial report, he "believed at the time that I had given them everything."

Nifong tearfully said Friday he would resign as district attorney, stunning his staff in Durham and his own attorneys. They had insisted for weeks their client had no plans to leave the office he was elected to for the first time in November.

"It has become increasingly apparent, during the course of this week, in some ways that it might not have been before, that my presence as the district attorney in Durham is not furthering the cause of justice," Nifong said, adding later: "My community has suffered enough."

Even if he is disbarred, Nifong's troubles aren't over _ the players' attorneys have pledged to seek criminal contempt charges next week in Durham.


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