In a case that has brought one surprise after another, a disciplinary hearing panel found Michael B. Nifong, the Durham County district attorney, guilty today of ethical violations while pressing a false accusation of sexual assault against three former Duke University lacrosse players. The panel then ruled that Mr. Nifong should be disbarred.
But the ruling was almost an anticlimax to the case because in the penalty phase of the five-day ethics hearing, David Freedman, one of Mr. Nifong’s lawyers, told the panel that Mr. Nifong believed that disbarment was “the appropriate punishment in this case.” The state also said it felt disbarment was appropriate.
After deliberating for less than an hour, the panel stated that any punishment short of disbarment would not be appropriate in the case.
In a lengthy statement, F. Lane Williamson, chairman of the disciplinary committee, said that Mr. Nifong had received due process, “and that’s what was nearly hijacked in the case of the Duke lacrosse defendants.”
Six of the charges against Mr. Nifong involved “dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation,” the most serious of the accusations against Mr. Nifong.
The developments come a day after Mr. Nifong said in tearful testimony that he will voluntarily resign from office even though he insisted he had not lied about evidence, the most serious charges against him.
While the panel was deliberating, Mr. Freedman said of his client, “He just wants this over” and that he was “absolutely devastated.”