Lawyer: Duke District Attorney Using Case for Political Advantage

A day before voters decide whether to keep the district attorney prosecuting two Duke University lacrosse players on charges of rape, a defense lawyer demanded the prosecutor be removed from the case and accused him of using it to help his election prospects.

"District Attorney Mike Nifong neglected his duties as a prosecutor," wrote attorney Kirk Osborn, who represents indicted player Reade Seligmann. "He created an actual conflict between his professional duty to search for the truth and his personal, vested interest in getting elected."

Osborn also asked the court Monday to throw out the photo identifications made by the accuser, a 27-year-old student at a nearby university who had been hired to strip at a team party on March 13.

He called the police photo lineup "unnecessarily suggestive and conducive to irreparable mistake and misidentification."

Nifong has denied any political motives in the aggressive investigation of the rape allegations and has rarely spoken publicly about the case.

Last month, he persuaded a grand jury to indict Seligmann, a sophomore from Essex Fells, N.J., and Collin Finnerty, a sophomore from Garden City, N.Y., on charges of rape, kidnapping and sexual assault of the exotic dancer. The woman said she was attacked by three men, and Nifong has said he hopes to charge a third person soon.

Defense attorneys have strongly proclaimed the players' innocence, often citing DNA tests they said failed to connect the accuser and the lacrosse players tested.

In recent days, the defense has also been attacking the accuser's credibility.

Osborn's motions referenced a 1996 rape allegation made by the woman, which did not lead to any charges, and a report she made in 1998, in which she accused her then-husband of threatening to kill her. Osborn's motion said she later failed to appear at a court hearing on the complaint, which was dismissed.

Osborn also filed motions seeking to reduce Seligmann's bond, now set at $400,000, to no more than $40,000; to obtain access to the accuser's cell phone records; and to order the state to save all DNA samples.

Nifong, a nearly three-decade veteran of the prosecutor's office, was appointed district attorney last year and is seeking election for the first time in Tuesday's Democratic primary. The winner likely will be the next district attorney since no Republicans are running; if no candidate gets at least 40 percent of the vote, the top two will advance to a May 30 runoff.