Sexual Assault Charges Dropped Against Duke Athletes

April 17, 2007

Just Because You’re Innocent It Doesn’t Mean You Won’t Be Charged with a Crime.

The situation in North Carolina with the three Duke lacrosse team members who were charged a little over a year ago with sexual assault against a stripper at a party is a current day example that “witch hunts” are still alive today. In the last few days it was determined that those charges were unfounded and were dropped completely. The North Carolina Attorney General, Roy Cooper, who took over the case from Durham County District Attorney, Mike Nifong, related that his investigation led to an evaluation that no assault actually happened.

The stripper alleged that the three students sexually assaulted her in a bathroom of a house hosting a team party where she was paid to perform. However, there was no DNA evidence, there were significant inconsistencies, no other witness who substantiated her claim, and the accuser contradicted herself. One of the students had an ATM receipt supporting an alibi, and it was learned that the woman had made similar gang-rape accusations ten years earlier, with no charges being filed. With all of these problems with the allegations, it’s difficult to understand why a District Attorney would file charges in the first place.

In fact, District Attorney Nifong’s handling of this case caused Nifong, himself, to be charged with ethics violations. Attorney General, Cooper said “This case shows the enormous consequences of overreaching by a prosecutor.” Cooper has even urged that a law be passed to allow the North Carolina Supreme Court to remove a district attorney, when warranted.

In today’s violence filled culture, rape and sexual assault generally carry stiff penalties and I’m not arguing against the basic premise that such a crime should be punished. However, when those in authority, who are responsible for carrying out justice act in a vigilante fashion, because they are so intent on furthering their own career, or perhaps, they think anyone who is accused is automatically guilty, we’re in danger of losing basic rights our country was founded on. Whether it is a law enforcement officer, a district attorney, or a judge who is clouded with ambition — wanting to be seen as tough on crime at all costs — when they overreach their authority and rush to condemn before evidence supports it –that authority figure is every bit as wrong as the “purported” criminal act.

Let’s consider what has happened to the three innocent college students for more than a year. They’ve been subjected to national negative notoriety, the worry and fear of being sent to prison for something they didn’t do, as well as the possible ruin of their future career potential. With such charges hanging over them, they lived in torment. I imagine when they went out in public, other people looked at them skeptically, wondering if they were criminals and that employers probably were not jumping at the chance to hire them for summer work. One of them graduated about the time they were indicted and the other two were temporarily suspended. While the two have been invited back to Duke, neither one has accepted. They both lost a whole year of their lives. Then, how about the huge legal bills they and their families had to pay for such a serious accusation. Estimates of the costs have been speculated at as high as $3 million.

I know that many people think that good, law abiding citizens won’t be falsely accused, or that if by some twist of fate that did happen, the authorities would quickly determine from the evidence that it was a mistake and the whole thing would soon get cleared up. Another general consensus is that “where there is smoke there is fire” and in those rare situations when someone is charged with a crime they didn’t commit, that they were probably involved with the wrong crowd, which is why they were accused in the first place.

But in this case, we have three athletes, studying at Duke University who just happened to go to a team party. These young men weren’t part of a gang, drug dealers, or involved in holding up convenience stores. Yes, there was alcohol at the party and a stripper, which was not the wisest decision. However, how many adults can say they never went to party where there was drinking. And if you just watch a little TV you will be exposed to many situations of scantily clad women and men, some instances of suggestive dancing — on prime time, seemingly saying that such activities are OK — so why do we expect our youth to be wiser than older adults with more life experience? Remember the Bible verse, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.

Instances like this are evidence that it is a myth that only people guilty of something are charged with crimes. Moreover, people accused of a sexual assault or other crimes need a strong defense by competent legal representation to fight against those authorities in the system operating with personal motives instead of seeking truth and fairness. Otherwise, those innocent people can become the “victims”.

Fortunately, the three falsely accused young men’s lawyers fiercely worked to ensure the truth came out in the end. You never know when you or a loved one could find yourself in a situation where you need a talented criminal defense lawyer, which is why I invite you to visit my website at to find out how to choose one. This can be a life changing decision.

2 Years for Throwing a Cup of Ice?

April 12, 2007

Does the Punishment Fit the Crime? — What Do You Think?

We’ve all seen reports about individuals who get so angry at another driver that they physically assault the other driver, even resorting to extreme violence. When that happens the offender is rightfully charged with a crime.But a recent case I heard about seemed to go too far in regards to determining a punishment that matched the crime.What happened was as follows: A young mother of three, Jessica Hall, was driving from North Carolina to New York for a family event, with her children and 6 month pregnant sister in the car. Jessica’s husband was not with them because he was away on his third tour in Iraq.

It was a hot summer day and the 25 year old Jessica was trying to follow her dad’s truck in traffic. Things grew tense as her sister started having false labor pains, while traffic slowed to just beyond a stand still.When a young male driver and his girlfriend cut her off twice, Jessica lost her temper and threw her McDonald’s cup of ice at the other car. Since the car windows were open, the ice, which was sticky from a soft drink that had been in the cup, landed on the girlfriend and inside the car, missing the driver. The male driver and his companion reported the incident to authorities. Hall was charged and found guilty by a jury of a felony. The minimum sentence was two years in prison. Even the “victim” driver and passenger were astounded at the conviction. They thought community service would have been more appropriate.Jessica Hall was in jail over a month and then went before the judge, who, luckily for Jessica, saw fit to reduce the sentence to probation for 5 years. She also had to pay fines and court costs for reckless driving and assault.An incident like this reminds us how easily a legal problem can happen to anyone. A conviction of a crime could send even a young mother of three off to prison for several years, leaving her children without a parent at home to care for them. That’s why it’s essential to hire the most talented attorney you can in a criminal case.

Consequently, you want to know your lawyer has experience and success in criminal matters and that the lawyer you think you are hiring is the one who will be actually working on your case – not some legal intern. You should be leery of lawyers, who charge very little— because they won’t be able to spend much time or attention on your case — which is a bad situation for your defense.Furthermore, the client should keep up his end of the arrangement by paying fees as agreed. When a client attempts to avoid paying or tries to renegotiate the fee after coming to an agreement, that is evidence of bad faith. It can have a negative impact on the lawyer’s commitment to providing his best efforts for your defense. There is also the possibility that a lawyer may even withdraw from the case if he or she hasn’t been paid. The client would then have to start over and try to find another lawyer — causing more hassle and time lost for the client.

Those are some of the reasons it’s important, above all in a criminal case, to pay good money for a talented, experienced attorney, and to make sure you keep them committed by paying on time, even if you have to borrow the money from credit cards, family, friends & other sources like home equity, or maybe even sell assets. After all, (while no lawyer can guarantee an outcome) if a talented lawyer can help you stay out of prison, you’ll be able to work and pay back the loans. You’ll still get to enjoy your freedom, instead of living with a roommate, named “Brutus”

Hello world!

April 11, 2007

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