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Disbarred Duke D.A. faces contempt hearing

Story Highlights

• NEW: Former Duke players request criminal contempt charges against ex-D.A.
• The lacrosse players want Mike Nifong, the disbarred D.A., to pay their legal fees
• North Carolina State Bar revoked Nifong's law license last week
• Committee finds Nifong violated at least 19 ethics offenses
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(CNN) -- Three former Duke University lacrosse players are seeking criminal contempt of court charges against Mike Nifong, the disbarred prosecutor who pursued a flawed rape case against them.

In legal papers filed Friday, the exonerated players also asked a judge to order Nifong to pay their legal bills.

The motion, filed in Superior Court in Durham County, North Carolina, lays out what the legal papers call an extensive pattern of misconduct. "The sheer scope of it shocks the conscience and defies any notion of accident or negligence," the motion states.

"This keeps going, and the story gets worse and worse for Nifong," said CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. "So I'm tempted to say he's suffered enough. He's lost his job, he's lost his law license. But every time another thing comes up in this case, Nifong seems to lose again."

Reade Seligmann, David Evans and Collin Finnerty were charged with first-degree kidnapping and first-degree sexual offense after a team party in March 2006.

An initial charge of first-degree forcible rape was dropped in December after the players' accuser told prosecutors she could no longer say for certain that she had been penetrated -- one of the defining factors of rape under North Carolina law. In addition, two DNA tests found no match between any of the three men and the accuser.

In April, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dismissed all charges, claiming the case was a result of Nifong's "rush to accuse." Nifong had asked Cooper to assign a special prosecutor after the North Carolina State Bar filed a complaint against him.

The allegations against the players forced the cancellation of the Duke lacrosse team's season and cost coach Mike Pressler his job. The case also inflamed tensions in Durham. The three players are white, while the alleged victim is black.

Nifong was disbarred last week by the state bar's disciplinary committee. The panel found he had violated at least 19 ethics offenses in his handling of the case.

Testifying before that committee the day before its decision was rendered, a tearful Nifong said he planned to resign as district attorney regardless of the outcome of the ethics hearing.

The state bar accused Nifong of improperly withholding DNA evidence from the defense that could clear the players, and of giving the court false information, among other offenses.

Nifong testified that the Duke case will follow him "to my grave ... and that's OK. I don't have a problem with that. I took the responsibility on myself, and I don't intend to pass it off on anybody else. Whatever mistakes I made in this case are my mistakes. They're not all the ones that the bar says I made, but they are my mistakes."

But, the motion filed Friday says, "As the only person who knew about both the exculpatory results and the defendants' unquestionable entitlement to those results ... Mr. Nifong knowingly took steps, over and over again, that would conceal them -- steps that did, in fact, conceal them."

According to the legal papers, Nifong was made aware of the DNA test results in April 2006, but collaborated with the lab's director to produce a report that did not include all of the test results, then "engaged in a pattern of official misconduct" to cover it up.

The misconduct ranged from "multiple material misrepresentations to multiple counts on multiple occasions," the motion says.

When defense attorneys discovered the test results, the motion says, "Mr. Nifong then told multiple different stories about what he knew, when he knew it and why the evidence was withheld."

The documents further allege, "In short, Mr. Nifong knowingly played a game of hide and seek and seek and seek and seek with the defendants and the court regarding unquestionably exculpatory evidence."

The motion demands that Nifong "should be made to pay for the absolutely unnecessary and extensive effort put forth by the defendants to obtain and finally identify that information throughout May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December of 2006."

Besides asking that Nifong be held in criminal contempt and forced to pay costs associated with the players' defenses, the motion asks the court for any other disciplinary action it deems appropriate.

Possible penalties for criminal contempt include jail time or a fine.



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