After speaking with Crystal Mangum I learned that on the night of February 17, 2010, she did not set fire to clothes in the bathtub as alleged by the Durham Police Department. Furthermore, she did not know that a fire had been set in her bathtub, and she did not know who was responsible for setting the fire. She also stated that she did not vandalize her ex-boyfriend’s car, as had been alleged in Durham Police Incident/Investigative report, and in the grand jury indictment. Furthermore she stated that she was unaware that her ex’s car had even been vandalized. Regarding the physical altercation with her ex-boyfriend, Ms. Mangum stated that he initiated the fight by punching her in the face, and she fought back in self defense. She never attempted to murder him, or use a lethal weapon against him. In light of her statements about what transpired the night of February 17, 2010, if what Ms. Mangum said is true (and I believe it is), the state’s entire case against her is baseless and without merit… nothing more than a house of cards built with smoke and mirrors on shifting sand… a case that is as flawed, flimsy, and flaky as the North Carolina State Bar’s case against former Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong. I find Crystal’s statements about what happened that night to be far more compelling than those made by authorities because her narrative has a believable timeline with a logical progression of events. Police reports give a report that is vague, sparse on details and substance, disjointed, illogical, and one that essentially defies belief.
When Attorney General Roy Cooper announced on April 11, 2007 that he was dropping all charges in the Duke Lacrosse case, the Carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse defendants concentrated on exacting payback, beginning with the prosecutor, Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong. With the media in cahoots with state agencies, and a pliable public which was readily susceptible to Jedi mind-tricks, Mr. Nifong was disbarred and severely persecuted. In addition to punitive and malicious action taken against Mr. Nifong, two lead investigators in the Duke Lacrosse case were forced to resign, the Durham City Manager was forced to resign, the head of the DNA lab who worked for the prosecution was fired, and the judge hearing the DNA lab director’s wrongful termination law suit threw the case out. Anyone considered by the Powers-That-Be to be on the “wrong end” of the Duke Lacrosse case (“wrong-enders”) were targeted for merciless retaliation. After Mr. Nifong, the high valued “wrong-ender” target next in line for the Powers-That-Be was Crystal Mangum, the African American exotic dancer at the Duke LAX Spring Break beer-guzzling stripper party, who made accusations against the three Duke defendants. A fateful 9-1-1 call by the ten year-old daughter of Ms. Mangum out of concern for her mother’s life on the night of February 17, 2010 gave authorities the opening they had been patiently waiting for, and they burst through it like storm troopers.
Ms. Mangum did not have to break any laws or commit a crime to unleash the unspeakable havoc that would be heaped on her. All that was required was for her to merely initiate contact, no matter how innocent or tangential, with the Durham law enforcement, such as the 9-1-1 call. The plan was straight forward, and was comprised of the following steps: (1) Charge Mangum with many charges and serious charges at the time of her arrest; (2) obtain a high bail (based on those charges) that she would be unable to meet; (3) hold her in jail pre-trial while the prosecution, which determines the pace of court action, moves at glacial speed – she was now serving her sentence as punishment for her role in the Duke Lacrosse case (Note: Wilson Prosecutor Bill Wolfe dragged his feet and stretched James Arthur Johnson’s pre-trial period of incarceration to 39 months before the trial date finally arrived, at which time the prosecution called for a special prosecutor to take over after last minute plea bargains with Mr. Johnson failed.); (4) after serving a long indeterminate sentence behind bars, Ms. Mangum would be expected to jump at the chance to take a plea deal just in order to be released from confinement; (5) after Mangum had served a sufficient sentence behind bars, the prosecution would offer a plea deal that would free her based on time served in exchange for pleading guilty to some charge; and (6) the prosecution would have prevailed without going to trial and Ms. Mangum would have served her sentence for offenses in the Duke Lacrosse case.
This was how things were supposed to happen. Crystal Mangum, who did nothing more than involuntarily allow her face to be used as a punching bag by her ex-boyfriend, was to serve several years in prison while awaiting trial, then she was to be released on a plea deal with a criminal record for misdemeanor arson, and, if the prosecution could swing it, have her placed on probation too.
Shortly after her February 17, 2010 arrest, the prosecution, headed by Angela Garcia-Lamarca, offered the following plea deal to Ms. Mangum: plead guilty as charged and serve a sentence of two years in prison. Her public defender attorney warned Mangum that if she turned down the offer and opted to go to trial, and if the prosecution successfully had her convicted of felony first degree arson, she could possibly face a six year sentence. Ms. Mangum refused this plea offer and languished in jail for three months until fate intervened in the form of two benevolent and generous bondsmen. The Carpetbagger Jihad plan had proceeded as intended until the owners of Hammond & Hammond Bailbondsmen, Inc. unexpectedly satisfied the $100,000 bond requirement for Ms. Mangum’s release from the Durham Detention Center. However, as a safeguard against such an unexpected event, Judge Claude Allen had set a condition for Ms. Mangum that if she was able to bond out, she would be required to be placed under house arrest. The move from the detention center to house arrest was not only significant because Ms. Mangum was no longer subjected to the oppressive conditions related with being behind bars, but because the prosecution lost its greatest bargaining chip. As a jail inmate, Ms. Mangum would have been more willing to accept harsher terms of a plea offer in order to taste freedom. With comforts of home confinement she was in better position to dictate terms for a plea deal that she would find more to her liking, or have the option of waiting to go to trial. Approximately one month into house arrest, the prosecution proposed to Ms. Mangum a second plea deal: plead guilty to misdemeanor arson and serve three additional months under house arrest along with credit for time served for the three months already spent in jail, and be placed on three years probation. Again, Ms. Mangum declined this offer by the prosecution.
The greatest advantage to Ms. Mangum of being placed under house arrest was that she was no longer inaccessible. Friends and family and supporters were able to visit her without time constraints or supervision. It was during such a visit that I met Ms. Mangum and she told me, face to face, what transpired in the late hours of February 17th and early hours of the 18th with respect to her interaction with her ex-boyfriend and authorities. I found her narrative of events to be consistent, cogent, credible, and compatible with the timeline… and her story, as told to me, follows.
On February 17, 2010, Crystal Mangum, single mother of three children aged 11, 10, and 3 years, had custody of her children who lived with her in a rented apartment. Moving forward with her life after Duke Lacrosse, she was gainfully employed and self-sufficient, and had recently taken out a $6,000 loan to pay for tuition, books, and supplies for grad school (she was enrolled at North Carolina Central University where she was pursuing a Masters degree in clinical psychology).
She had been intermittently in a relationship with Milton Walker over a 17 year period, and he currently had been dividing time staying with Ms. Mangum and at his parents’ house, also located in Durham. During the evening of February 17th an argument ensued when Ms. Mangum related to Mr. Walker that she wanted to terminate their relationship, and that she wanted him to move, with his belongings, from her apartment. At about 11:15 pm, the argument turned violent after Ms. Mangum made a statement to which Walker took offense. He responded by grabbing Crystal and punching her in the face several times. Mangum’s ten year-old daughter immediately went to the phone and made a frantic call to 9-1-1, requesting help and stating that if help did not arrive soon, her mother might be killed.
Ms. Mangum extricated herself from her ex-boyfriend’s grasp and attempted to escape. He was in pursuit. She picked up a chair, and hit him with it in self-defense. Intermittently during the next twenty minutes or so, the two scuffled, wrestled, and exchanged punches. She then went into an unoccupied bedroom and closed the door behind her. After approximately five minutes in the room she emerged, whereupon she found two police officers (Tyler and Thompson) entering the premises.
Acutely aware of her infamous Duke Lacrosse past, Ms. Mangum began talking to the two officers, trying to mollify the situation because she dreaded police involvement and its implications with regards to media, etc.
Shortly after Mangum engaged the two officers, two additional officers entered the house with a handcuffed Mr. Walker between them. The sight of Walker triggered a fit of hysteria during which Mangum screamed at him. She doesn’t deny that she might have said something to the effect that she was going to stab him, but she did not have a knife and was definitely not armed when yelling. In other words, there was no imminent danger that she could or would carry out the threat. Officer Tyler then forced Ms. Mangum to the floor and handcuffed her. Mangum had been assured that she was not under arrest, but that she was being restrained until things could be sorted out.
Shortly thereafter, Officer Tyler stated aloud that he smelled smoke, at which point Officer Thompson began to lead Crystal out of the house. Mangum heard Officer Tyler go to the bathroom and kick in the bathroom door (Note: the bathroom door had been closed since before the officers arrived). Crystal was hesitant, not wanting to leave her children in the house if there was danger. Officer Thompson assured Mangum that her children would be removed from the house, as well. Shortly thereafter, Crystal’s three children and Walker joined her outside of the house. Officer Thompson placed Crystal in the backseat of the patrol car. The officers congregated around Mr. Walker and were talking to him, but none of the officers came to Crystal to get a statement from her about what had transpired.
After a period of time has passed, fire trucks begin arriving. Ms. Mangum does not recall seeing a fire hose being taken into the building by the firefighters. Eventually one of the firemen approached the patrol car and asked Crystal if she started the fire. Crystal denied setting the fire or knowing anything about the fire.
When she noticed that Mr. Walker had been freed of his manacles, she anticipated that she would be removed from the handcuffs as well, and asked Officer Tyler when he was going to take off the cuffs. He replied that she was going to jail and slammed the car door shut.
While being driven to jail, Ms. Mangum was still unaware of the gravity of the situation that faced her. In her assessment of the situation, she had definitely not attempted to kill Mr. Walker, she was the true victim of the assault, she did not initiate the fight, the 9-1-1 call was made with her welfare in mind, her physical actions were in self-defense, she did not set fire to clothes in the bathroom’s bathtub, she did not take clothes into the bathroom, she knew nothing about the fire in the bathroom, she did not vandalize a car, she did not know if her ex-boyfriend’s car had been vandalized, and she was cooperative with the authorities and offered no resistance to them. When Ms. Mangum heard the charges against her that were read later, she was totally flabbergasted.
Meanwhile, the biased mainstream media, including Newsweek magazine wrote stories about how Ms. Mangum was arrested for attempted first degree murder and for committing first degree arson (defined as: setting an occupied building or structure on fire). The media articles related how Ms. Mangum allegedly punched, scratched, and threw objects at Mr. Walker, but there was no mention that Mr. Walker initiated the altercation by punching Crystal in the face. Nor was there any mention about any prior charges of domestic abuse attributed to Mr.Walker, which I have been told included an ex-wife of Walker being punched in the face. Ms. Mangum stated that after being taken to the police station, photographs were taken of her bruised face, but not one of them was published or aired by the media.
The media, in general, stayed away from the car vandalism issue. In only one article could I even find any mention of damage to a car. Keith Upchurch, writer for The Herald-Sun newspaper, seemed to confirm that a car had been vandalized when he wrote that an empty black Lincoln with a shattered windshield and four flat tires was sitting in the driveway of Crystal’s apartment on the afternoon of February 18, 2010. (Police reports, however, described Milton Walker’s car as being a blue Oldsmobile Park Avenue.) When asked to see the Herald-Sun’s photographs of the vandalized car, Mr. Upchurch replied that no photographs had been taken.
Neither politicians nor civil rights organizations, such as the NAACP, came to the defense of Crystal Mangum. No one extended support or expressed outrage at Ms. Mangum’s treatment except for members of the Committee on Justice for Mike Nifong. Committee members wrote Ms. Mangum letters of support while she was held in the detention center, and made donations to her during her incarceration. Committee members wrote letters to judges, prosecutors, politicians, and others seeking dismissal of the charges and her release from custody. Committee members held a pray vigil for Ms. Mangum on May 15, 2010, in Durham. Committee member Vincent Edward Clark tried to raise money for Ms. Mangum’s bond, and upon reading about it in The Herald-Sun, Mr. and Mrs. Lonnie Hammond, owners of Hammond & Hammond Bail Bondsman, Inc., made an impressive humanitarian gesture by putting up bond for Ms. Mangum pro bono. Since being released from jail, though still under house arrest, Ms. Mangum has been able to tell, firsthand, what happened the night of February 17, 2010. The aforementioned, according to Ms. Mangum, is what transpired, and it is believable, especially when considering the story pieced together by police and fire reports and media articles.
The piecemeal story offered by the authorities and media is as follows. Though no time was given for receipt of the 9-1-1 call placed by Mangum’s daughter, the police arrived before midnight on February 17, 2010. There was no documentation that I could find that stated that officers witnessed any physical altercation between Ms. Mangum and Mr. Walker. There was no documentation to support the claim by police that Ms. Mangum attempted to kill Mr. Walker. When officers brought Milton Walker into the house where Ms. Mangum was talking with Officers Tyler and Thompson, Ms. Mangum exploded into a tirade during which she is alleged to have stated, “I’m going to stab you, M-F.” There is no report that Ms. Mangum was armed when she made the statement. At this point, Mangum was apparently forced to the floor and handcuffed, the time of arrest recorded at 11:55 pm of February 17, 2010. It is unclear as to what time Officer Tyler allegedly saw Ms. Mangum put clothes in the bathroom, but he allegedly discovered the fire in the bathroom’s bathtub around 12:08 am, and placed a call at that time to the Durham Fire Department. At 12:09 am, nearly fourteen minutes after Ms. Mangum was arrested, the Durham Fire Department received the alarm, in which the police officer falsely indicated a structure fire was in progress with a subject trapped. What happened during the fourteen minutes from the time Ms. Mangum was handcuffed until Officer Tyler discovered the fire in the bathtub is a mystery for which there has been no accounting.
At approximately 12:15 am, six minutes after the alarm was sounded, the fire units arrived at Crystal’s apartment. There was no mention of what, if any, measures were taken by police to extinguish the burning clothes in the bathtub since the fire was allegedly discovered six minutes earlier. For example, there was no mention that the police officers turned on the bathtub faucets, which most people would consider a prudent course of action. On arrival firemen found the bathroom door closed, and upon opening it, observed that a fire was still visible in the bathtub. The estimated number of articles of clothing burned is never given, although a Herald-Sun article wrote, “They (Durham police) said she filled a bathtub with clothes and set them on fire.” Never in the fire report is there any mention of flame damage to the structure, only smoke damage. The only things burned by flames were apparently clothes. No reports contained any mention of what articles of clothing were burned, or whether or not only articles that belonged to Walker were burned. Because of extensive smoke damage in the bathroom, the firemen probably felt compelled to pull down the ceiling to rule out possible extension of the fire there; an action which accounted for the substantial amount of building damage resulting from this incident.
The authority’s version of events lacks credibility because it is vague, nonspecific, and illogical. Reasons for the charge of attempted first degree murder are never substantiated, use of the felony first degree arson charge is inaccurate and misleading because a structure was not burned, and it is unreasonable to believe that it was the intention of the fire-starter to burn anything other than the clothes in the bathtub. The identity theft charge lodged against Ms. Mangum was ludicrous, as were the three counts of child abuse. The charge of injury to personal property was never appropriately documented or justified. Ms. Mangum was designated by police as the offender in the domestic dispute without them even taking a statement from her. The most cursory look at this case brings up questions of misconduct and bias on the part of state authorities in prosecuting Ms. Mangum in what would appear to the objective and casual observer to be nothing more than payback for her role in the Duke Lacrosse case.
Unable to afford an attorney, Ms. Mangum is being represented by an attorney from Durham’s Public Defender Office. The public defender is an employee of the state, and it is the state which pays his salary and is responsible for his advancement in the ranks, or lack thereof. When issues of misconduct and malfeasance by state officials and/or governmental agencies occur against a defendant, a public defender is automatically placed in a compromised position with an inherent conflict of interest. As Mark Twain once said, “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a man playing golf with his boss.” Crystal Mangum’s public defender is, in essence, playing golf with his boss. For him to aggressively and appropriately defend his client, would require exposing government officers and agents of misdeeds. For him to successfully defend his client would not be beneficial to his career, and could very well be detrimental to it. There is a definite conflict of interest issue with the flawed vendetta case against Ms. Mangum. To best serve his interests, he is under pressure to work with the prosecutor and try and persuade Ms. Mangum to accept a plea deal… any deal as long as she pleads guilty to a charge that would take the state off the hook for a possible civil suit filed by Ms. Mangum. She’s holding a royal flush, and the public defender’s goal is to persuade her to fold.
This vendetta payback case against Ms. Mangum was a plea deal case from the onset, as Prosecutor Garcia-Lamarca had no intention of prosecuting the case in court because she had no case. The prosecutor was relying on the public defender to help get the defendant to accept a plea deal. However, much leverage was lost by the prosecution when angelic bail bondsmen appeared unexpectedly and bonded Ms. Mangum from the detention center.
So, regarding the most serious of the charges for which Ms. Mangum is currently under house arrest, felony first degree arson, the prosecution has not made its case. It lacks credible evidence. All charges against Crystal Mangum should be immediately dismissed and she should be released from custody, period.