Too Early to Investigate Nifong' s Handling of Duke Lacrosse Case, Justice Department Says

Officials from the Department of Justice have told a North Carolina congressman that it's too early to launch a federal investigation into the handling of the Duke lacrosse case, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Rep. Walter Jones wrote Attorney General Alberto Gonzales last month, asking that the Department of Justice investigate whether the district attorney prosecuting three Duke lacrosse players charged with sexual assault has violated the athletes' civil rights.

The department's Office of Legislative Affairs responded last week that it was premature to initiate a federal investigation while criminal charges and other investigations at the state level are ongoing, said Cynthia J. Magnuson, a Department of Justice spokeswoman.

Jones' spokeswoman Kathleen Joyce said Tuesday that the congressman still planned to meet next week with the head of the department's Civil Rights Division.

"He doesn't consider the letter received as a final response," Joyce said. "He's still pushing forward."

In the letter to Gonzales, Jones asked that the conduct of Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong be reviewed.

Nifong turned the case over to state Attorney General Roy Cooper last week. The North Carolina State Bar has filed ethics charges accusing Nifong of making misleading and inflammatory comments about the lacrosse team.