Duke Lacrosse DA Hit With Ethics Charges

Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong listens to questions from reporters at the Old County Courthouse in Durham, N.C. Tuesday, May 2, 2006. Nifong, the lead attorney in the case against members of the Duke lacrosse team won the race for District Attorney by a narrow margin.(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
AP Photo/Gerry Broome
The North Carolina bar filed ethics charges Thursday against the prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse case, accusing him of saying misleading or inflammatory things to the news media about the athletes under suspicion.

The punishment for ethics violations can range from admonishment to disbarment.

Among the four rules of professional conduct that District Attorney Mike Nifong is accused of violating was a prohibition against making comments "that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused."

The charges will be heard by an independent body called the Disciplinary Hearing Commission, made up of both lawyers and non-lawyers.

In a statement, the bar said it opened a case against Nifong on March 30, a little more than two weeks after the party where a 28-year-old student at North Carolina Central University hired to perform as a stripper said she was raped.

Nifong did not immediately return a call for comment.

Another of the rules Nifong was charged with breaking forbids "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation." The bar said that when DNA testing failed to find any evidence a lacrosse player raped the accuser, Nifong told a reporter the players might have used a condom.

According to the bar, Nifong knew that assertion was misleading, because he had received a report from an emergency room nurse in which the accuser said her attackers did not use a condom.

Defense attorney Joseph Cheshire, who represents one of the three lacrosse players charged with sexual offense and kidnapping, declined to comment.

Nifong dropped the rape charges against the athletes last week after the stripper wavered in her story.

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com