DURHAM, N.C. – A judge has sentenced disgraced prosecutor Mike Nifong to one day in jail for lying to a judge while pursuing the Duke lacrosse rape case.
Nifong was held in criminal contempt of court Friday for lying to a judge when pursuing rape charges against three falsely accused Duke University lacrosse players.
Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith III immediately moved to consider a punishment for Nifong, who has already been stripped of his law license and has resigned from office. He faces as many as 30 days in jail and a fine as high as $500.
Reading his decision from the bench minutes after the conclusion of two days of testimony, Smith said Nifong "willfully made false statements" to the court in September when he insisted he had given defense attorneys all results from a critical DNA test.
In fact, Smith found, Nifong had provided the defense with a report on the DNA testing that he knew to be incomplete. The omitted data contained test results showing that DNA of multiple men, none of whom were lacrosse players, was on a woman who said she was attacked at a March 2006 party thrown by Duke's lacrosse team.
Taking the stand in his own defense, Nifong insisted Friday that he didn't intentionally lie about whether he had turned over the DNA evidence. But he acknowledged the report he gave defense attorneys was incomplete.
"I now understand that some things that I thought were in the report were in fact not in the report," Nifong said. "So the statements were not factually true to the extent that I said all the information had been provided."
A defense attorney found the omitted data amid 2,000 pages of documents Nifong gave the defense months after the initial report. Nifong said that by the time he realized the data wasn't contained in that report, "it had been corrected. The defendants already had it."
"It was never my intention to mislead this or any other court," Nifong said. "I certainly apologize to the court at this time for anything I might have said that was not correct."
Earlier Friday, Brian Meehan, the director of a private lab who prepared the DNA testing report, said the omissions were a misunderstanding. He said Nifong asked him to test DNA samples from lacrosse players to see whether any matched genetic material found on the woman who told police she was raped.
Although male DNA was found, no sample matched a lacrosse player. Results from the other unidentified men was referenced as "non-probative" material in the report given to defense attorneys, Meehan said.
"My company and the company's assessment of that document request was that clearly there was a misunderstanding, that whoever went through that document we provided, that there were some things that they didn't understand completely, that clearly they got wrong," Meehan said.
Charles Davis, the attorney appointed to prosecute the contempt charge, asked Meehan whether Nifong's statement to the court — that the report encompassed everything he had discussed with Meehan — was true or false.
"It would be false because we don't include discussions in our reports," Meehan answered.
On Thursday, Meehan said he was the one who decided how to prepare the report stating no lacrosse player had been linked to the accuser. When Glover asked Meehan whether Nifong had asked him to leave anything out of the report, Meehan answered, "No."
Nifong ultimately recused himself from the case after being charged with ethics violations.
State prosecutors who took over the case dropped all charges against the three men and declared them innocent victims of a "tragic rush to accuse."
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. He resigned a month later as district attorney.a