I've written before that one of the few crimes worse than rape is making a false accusation of rape, and now it looks like the accuser in the Duke rape case, Crystal G. Mangum, did just that. The charges have been dropped for lack of evidence, and the tragic thing is that prosecutor Mike Nifong knew he couldn't make the case a year ago but decided to put the accused young men through hell anyway.

The district attorney dropped rape charges Friday against the three Duke University lacrosse players after the stripper who accused them changed her story again. But the men still face kidnapping and sex charges that could bring more than 30 years in prison. ...

In dropping the rape charges, Nifong filed court papers that said the accuser told an investigator Thursday that she is no longer certain whether she was penetrated vaginally with the men's penises, as she had claimed earlier. Nifong previously said he would rely on the woman's account because of a lack of DNA evidence against the players.

Lacking any "scientific or other evidence independent of the victim's testimony" to corroborate that aspect of the case, the district attorney said in court papers, "the state is unable to meet its burden of proof with respect to this offense." ...

The defense has complained that the stripper has given authorities at least a dozen different versions of her story. Among other things, she has given conflicting accounts of the number of attackers _ anywhere from three to 20 _ and the ways in which she was supposedly assaulted.

So did Nifong just screw up? How do we know it was malicious prosecutorial misconduct that should land him behind bars? Don't forget this story from last week:

The head of a private DNA laboratory [Brian Meehan] testified Friday that he and District Attorney Mike Nifong agreed last spring not to report DNA results favorable to Duke lacrosse players charged with rape. ...

In court Friday, Meehan said his lab found DNA from unidentified men in the underwear and body of the woman who said she was gang-raped at a lacrosse party in March. Nurses at Duke Hospital collected her underwear and samples from her body a few hours after the alleged assault. Meehan said the DNA did not come from Reade Seligmann, David Evans, or Collin Finnerty, who have been charged with rape and sexual assault in the case. ...

"Had Mr. Nifong said, 'We want a report on everything,' that is what we would produce," Meehan said.

"You violated the protocols of your own lab," Bannon said.

"Correct ... I don't have a legal explanation for it," Meehan said. "I was just trying to do the right thing."

Do the right thing by ignoring the evidence that suggests that a rape accusation was completely false? How is that justice?

Mike Nifong needs to face criminal charges and should be removed from his elected position as soon as possible. How many other cases has he manipulated during his tenure? They'll all have to be revisited.

And as for Crystal G. Mangum, if that is her real name, she should be put in jail for a term no less than what her victims would have faced if they had been convicted.



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