Durham DA Nifong Submits New Letter of Resignation, Effective Immediately

Disgraced prosecutor Mike Nifong submitted a new letter of resignation Monday, agreeing to leave office immediately.

The letter is a formality. Nifong has already been disbarred, suspended from office and replaced by his old boss as Durham County district attorney for his handling of the discredited Duke lacrosse rape case. He had also submitted a resignation letter last month that was to take effect July 13.

Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson moved ahead last week with an effort to remove Nifong from office under a rarely used process established in state law. But he held off booting Nifong from office until Monday, allowing Nifong time to send Gov. Mike Easley a new letter of resignation.

Betty Lawrence, an attorney for the Durham resident who filed a petition in February asking Hudson to remove Nifong, pressed the judge to do so in spite of the revised resignation. Without such an order, she said, Nifong could potentially get his law license back and again run for office.

It was a suggestion Hudson dismissed without much of a discussion.

"Woe be it to the people of Durham County if they're fooled again," Hudson said, adding later, "I do not think he will be elected for any position in the United States again."

Nifong didn't appear at the hearing last week and he wasn't in Hudson's courtroom Monday. He is more likely to appear July 26, when a second judge considers holding him in criminal contempt of court.

Last week, Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III said he had found probable cause to believe Nifong "willfully and intentionally made false statements of material fact" during a hearing held last year in the lacrosse case. If held in criminal contempt, Nifong faces up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

A disciplinary committee of the North Carolina State Bar ruled last month that Nifong broke more than two dozen rules of professional conduct while investigating allegations that a woman was raped at a party thrown by Duke's highly ranked lacrosse team in March 2006.

The three players, who had called the allegations against them "fantastic lies," were cleared in April by North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper. He said they were the innocent victims of Nifong's "tragic rush to accuse."