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Thursday, June 21, 2007
Nifong's predecessor named interim DA; to name permanent replacement

Associated Press

DURHAM, N.C. -- Durham County's former district attorney was sworn Thursday to temporarily replace Mike Nifong, who was disbarred last week over his prosecution of the Duke lacrosse case.

Gov. Mike Easley picked Jim Hardin as interim district attorney, a job Hardin held from 1994 to 2005 before becoming a judge. Easley plans to name a permanent replacement later.

Nifong was disbarred for breaking more than two dozen rules of professional conduct in his handling of allegations that an exotic dancer was raped at a Duke University lacrosse team party in March 2006.

The state attorney general later declared that the three players Nifong prosecuted were innocent victims of a "tragic rush to accuse."

The disciplinary committee that stripped him of his law license Saturday concluded that Nifong manipulated the investigation to boost his chances of winning an upcoming election. The state bar cited a delay in DNA test results reaching the defense and comments that Nifong made about the defendants, including calling them "a bunch of hooligans."

The committee determined that Nifong committed "a clear case of intentional prosecutorial misconduct" that involved "dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation."

Former Duke lacrosse coach Mike Pressler, who was forced to resign over the scandal last year, agreed with that assessment Thursday.

"Why did you do this? You could have put the brakes on this numerous times. Why did put all of those boys and their families through the wringer here for your own ambition, for your own job?" Pressler, now a coach in Rhode Island, told WRAL-TV. "I've said it before, 'Hey Mike, what goes around comes around, and you are going to get yours for the mistakes that were made."'