Nifong Reports to Jail; Exonerated Duke Lacrosse Players Seek $30 Million Settlement

The prosecutor who led the now-discredited Duke lacrosse rape case reported to jail Friday to serve a 24-hour sentence for contempt of court. The city, meanwhile, was in settlement talks with the three exonerated players.

According to a person close to the case, attorneys for the three players are seeking $30 million from Durham and reforms in the legal process.

If the terms aren't met, they will sue early next month, the person told The Associated Press on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the proposed settlement wasn't complete.

The former district attorney, Mike Nifong, declined to speak with reporters as he arrived at the jail. He was disbarred for ethics violations in his handling of the case, and a judge found him in contempt for lying to the court when he insisted he had given defense attorneys all results from critical DNA tests.

Click here to read the ethics complaint against Nifong (FindLaw).

A small group of supporters accompanied Nifong with signs reading, "We believe in your integrity and goodness."

A handful of hecklers also met him at the jail. One woman shouted out: "Justice works!"

Durham County Sheriff Worth Hill said Nifong likely will have a cell to himself for safety reasons.

The three university lacrosse players were accused of raping a woman who had been hired to strip at a team party in 2006. Nifong pursued the case and won indictments, but the charges were eventually thrown out by state prosecutors who declared the players innocent victims of a "tragic rush to accuse."

Durham's Police Department, which helped Nifong secure the indictments, has also come under criticism. A special committee probing police handling of the case stopped working last month, however, because the city's liability insurance provider warned that the committee's conclusions could provide material for lawsuits.

Attorneys Brendan Sullivan and Barry Scheck met Wednesday with Durham officials to discuss a possible settlement to avoid a lawsuit. The lawyers stressed that the money — about $10 million each for David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann over five years — must be accompanied by legal reforms, the person close to the case told AP.

The attorneys are seeking the creation of ombudsman positions to review complaints of misconduct about North Carolina district attorneys, and they want Durham city officials to lead the lobbying for any legal changes that would require action by the state's General Assembly, the person said.

City Attorney Henry Blinder and City Manager Patrick Baker briefed elected officials on the settlement discussions Thursday, according to The Herald-Sun of Durham, which first reported the settlement demands. It said the city has a $5 million liability insurance policy with a $500,000 deductible.