James Cooney, a Charlotte, North Carolina attorney retained to represent Reade Seligmann in the Duke case, recently was asked why he thought the Duke case attracted so much attention.
Mr. Cooney answered: "I think there were really three factors. The first was that this case was a 'perfect storm' of race, class and gender issues - it appeared to appeal to our worst thoughts about male athletes and underprivileged women of color. Second, the district attorney was so adamant and certain in his public statements that these crimes occurred - and that they were racially motivated - that even casual viewers could not help but be outraged by it. The third was that a number of constituencies - both the media and individuals with various race, gender and class agendas - then seized upon the case for their own purposes. This created a Pandora's box that, once opened, could not be shut."
I would cite three other factors: (1) ignorance, (2) envy and (3) reverse racism.
To be sure, that's not politically correct.
But the truth is not necessarily politically correct.
But for general ignorance of the truth as to what happened at the party, the kind of envy condemned by the Tenth Commandment and a rogue prosecutor with a political need to play the reverse racism card and a sufficient supply of local supporters, the Duke case would have been properly investigated, polygraph test offers would have been accepted instead of rejected, and there would have been a determination in due course that the gang rape claim was bogus instead of a rush to indict on selective evidence and a concealment of exculpatory evidence.
(If there had not been a stripper party, there would not have been a Duke case, of course. But North Carolina law permits stripper parties. I say they are wrong, but they are not criminal and prosecutors are supposed to be fair and impartial ministers of justice, not moral arbiters.)
Let's examine the three factors cited by Mr. Cooney.
First: "this case was a 'perfect storm' of race, class and gender issues - it appeared to appeal to our worst thoughts about male athletes and underprivileged women of color.
The case was "a perfect storm," as claimed, but who is "our"; what are "our worst thoughts about male athletes and underprivileged women of color"; and what is appealing about any of the many versions of the ludicrous story told by false accuser Crystal Gail Mangum?
Promoting stereotypes about male (or female) athletes is unhelpful (and not expected by me from an attorney representing a top male athlete like Reade Seligmann, already wrongly defamed as a "hooligan" by Mr. Nifong).
Mr. Cooney refrained from calling male athletes "hooligans" (which is good), but where is the evidence that male athletes as a group behave worse (or better) than other males (or female athletes), or people generally?
More importantly, where is the evidence that the members of the 2005-2006 Duke University Men's Lacrosse Team should induce "our " bad thoughts, much less "our worst thoughts"?
I'd be interested to compare the GPA and Board scores and behavior of the members of the 2005-2006 Duke University Men's Lacrosse Team as a group with the GPAs and Board scores and behavior of all Duke students and all college students as well as other college sports teams at Duke and generally.
I expect that the team members compare favorably.
Yes, there was a perfect storm.
That perfect storm prevailed for so long due to ignorance (first ignorance as to what happened and then ignorance that the members of the team and their families and friends could overcome a corrupt prosecution).
Now that perfect storm is dissipating.
Take Michael B. Nifong, Durham County, North Carolina District Attorney Michael B. Nifong (for a little while longer).
Sources say that at the beginning Mr. Nifong genuinely believed that Ms. Mangum had been raped at that party last March.
Of course, that possibility had to be thoroughly investigated.
But, so did Ms. Mangum, whose criminal, medical and employment history do not inspire confidence in her credibility.
The mainstream media wallowed in the so-called Duke lacrosse scandal story like a pig in mud. It treated the gang rape claim as credible and chose to treat Ms. Mangum as a victim and not to identify her, even after Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty were indicted, substituting a presumption of guilt for a presumption of innocence and delaying the discovery and dissemination of information about Ms. Mangum that discredited her.
Second: "the district attorney was so adamant and certain in his public statements that these crimes occurred - and that they were racially motivated - that even casual viewers could not help but be outraged by it."
I was more than a casual viewer, and I was outraged. But I was outraged by (1) Mr. Nifong's flagrant misconduct, (2) the mainstream media tsunami inundating the team members, (3) the presumptions that Ms. Mangum was telling the truth and the team members were either rapists or protectors of rapists and (4) community reaction corrupting proceedings to the point that a "Dead Man Walking" comment aimed at Reade Seligmann IN COURT went unpunished by the court.
Third: "a number of constituencies - both the media and individuals with various race, gender and class agendas - then seized upon the case for their own purposes. This created a Pandora's box that, once opened, could not be shut."
Right about the seizing. But hope was in Pandora's box, it was not shut in, and the hope that the truth would prevail is being realized with respect to the Duke case.
And lessons will be learned from the Duke case.
On that score, I am encouraged by this email I just received: "I am a paralegal/investigator by day for an insurance defense firm, and at night I teach law classes to paralegal students. As part of my Legal Ethics class, I have had my students use the Nifong situation as a basis for a lot of discussion. Thank you for the article you put together on this case re: Ms. Murphy's incredible commentary. The way you have put this together by responding to her statements is perfect for my class. This was one of those 'What's wrong with this picture?' stories from the very beginning! Thank you for taking the time to lend your expertise to the analysis of this horrible miscarriage of justice for those three young men!"
We need to put ignorance, envy, racism and reverse racism in "Pandora's Box' and shut it permanently.
In the Duke case, the good news is that truth will prevail, thanks be to God.
Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.
Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.
The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.
Gaynor currently contributes regularly to www.MichNews.com, www.RenewAmerica.com, www.WebCommentary.com, www.PostChronicle.com and www.therealitycheck.org and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.