In today’s News & Observer article titled “E-mail claim hit Easley in 2008,” former Governor Mike Easley’s press secretary Renee Hoffman is noted to have testified under oath last week that she had instructed public information officers to delete e-mail messages. She did so under orders from then Governor Easley. The e-mails, which were public records, were not to be destroyed, and doing so would be in violation of the law.
The same accusation (Governor Easley ordered e-mail destroyed) was made nearly two years earlier in March 2008 by Debbie Crane, a former public information officer for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. In response to Crane’s statement, Easley, through his spokesman Seth Effron, called Ms. Crane “dishonest, untruthful, and insubordinate.” Ms. Crane said that she felt vindicated by Hoffman’s deposition last week in which Ms. Hoffman stated that she, too, had been instructed to have public information officers delete e-mails. The N & O article quoted Debbie Crane as saying: “Being called a liar by Mike Easley is a badge of honor.”
Debbie Crane shares that honor with former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong, because he was also called a “liar” by Governor Easley a year earlier, in 2007. However, in Mike Nifong’s case, the governor made the statement personally (not through a spokesman), publicly, and proactively. The statement, made months before Mr. Nifong was scheduled to appear before the North Carolina State Bar’s disciplinary panel because of his handling of the Duke Lacrosse case, accused Mr. Nifong of making a promise to him (Easley) that he would not run for re-election, and then doing just that. In addition, he stated that Mr. Nifong was “the worst appointment I have ever made.” The governor was not the only high level official to make pre-hearing statements against Mr. Nifong that were prejudicial and inflammatory… Attorney General Roy Cooper called Mr. Nifong a rogue prosecutor and proclaimed the three Duke Lacrosse defendants “innocent.” However, I do not believe these statements had any bearing on Mr. Nifong’s disciplinary hearing, as its outcome was predetermined long before the State Bar even became involved.
As early as May 1, 2006, defense for the Duke Lacrosse defendants had been calling for the Court to remove Mr. Nifong as prosecutor. It alleged that Mr. Nifong was motivated in pursuing the prosecution of the Duke Lacrosse defendants purely for political gain (to help him get elected for the position of Durham District Attorney… which he held). Defense attorneys never did provide any facts to back up that statement. The Duke Lacrosse defense team, which did not want to face Mr. Nifong in court, came up with the following solution: have the North Carolina State Bar charge Mr. Nifong with an ethical complaint; that would force Mr. Nifong to step down as prosecutor for the case due to a conflict of interest. Their diabolical scheme worked to perfection… worthy of the admiration of Bush architect Karl Rove, himself.
I admire Debbie Crane, like Mike Nifong, for doing the right thing in 2008, even though, like Mr. Nifong, she suffered proximately as a result. I believe that Debbie Crane and Mike Nifong exhibited extraordinary courage and are deserving of the gratitude of all North Carolinians. Others who merit honor for their courageous acts are Judge Melissa Owens Lassiter (who defied Governor Easley by using the principle of “equal justice for all” in her order to re-instate a NC trooper who had been selectively fired), and L. F. Eason, who quit his job with the state rather than pay homage to the unrepentant racist bigot Senator Jesse Helms at his death.
Honorees, wear your badges proudly. We are not worthy.