DURHAM, N.C. – Disgraced former prosecutor Mike Nifong pleaded not guilty Thursday to criminal contempt charges stemming from his failure to turn over complete DNA testing results during the now-discredited Duke lacrosse rape case.
If found in contempt, Nifong could face up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
As Durham County district attorney, Nifong led the investigation into a woman's allegations that she was raped at a 2006 lacrosse team party where she was hired as a stripper. He won indictments against three lacrosse players, but eventually recused himself from the case, and state prosecutors dropped all remaining charges, saying the players were innocent victims of a "tragic rush to accuse."
Defense attorneys for the three falsely accused young men asked a judge to punish Nifong for initially telling the court he had turned over all DNA test results when he knew, and failed to disclose, that genetic material from multiple men was found on the accuser — but none from any lacrosse player.
Nifong's attorney, Jim Glover, said Nifong never intentionally tried to mislead the court. He believed he was being truthful when he told the judge he had given the defense all the DNA testing results, though he didn't always know the specifics in every report, Glover said.
Nifong was disbarred in June for more than two dozen violations of the state's rules of professional conduct during his prosecution of the lacrosse case.
During a hearing last month, he apologized and acknowledged there was "no credible evidence" that the three formerly charged players committed any of the crimes he accused them of. He said then: "It is my hope that all of us can learn from the mistakes in this case, that all of us can begin to move forward."