On Friday, December 17, 2010, a twelve member jury in a Durham criminal courtroom mercifully put an end to yet another legal fiasco hosted by the State of North Carolina. The trial against Crystal Mangum for felony arson and a spate of misdemeanors, culminated a ten month legal process which began amid much fanfare in the media. As is often the case, the media gave little in the way of attention with regards to the conclusion. And this is not to say that the prosecution lost, for they were actually big winners in the verdict delivered on Friday. Because Ms. Mangum was not convicted of the most serious charge, she escaped the probability of more time behind bars, but she was the big loser in this shameful episode of Tar Heel juris prudence.
Make no mistake about it… the case against Crystal Mangum is unlike any other case involving domestic violence in the state’s history. Actions by the first responders to the 911 call made by Crystal’s children, rulings by the magistrate and judges involved in the case, the prosecution’s charges, and the featherweight defense put forth on Ms. Mangum’s behalf were all part of a grand scheme of retribution against individuals who had any part in prosecuting the case against the Duke Lacrosse defendants. Anyone with a scintilla of common sense knows that Crystal Mangum’s case was not handled like similar such cases, and they also know why… Crystal Mangum was the accuser in the Duke Lacrosse case (or as labeled by the media, “false accuser”).
The power that the Carpetbagger families of the Duke Lacrosse defendants hold within the state is embarrassingly immense. Nationally, these families of wealth, status, and privilege have always exerted tremendous sway on the media (the main conduit being through former CBS News executive Rae Forker Evans – mother of Duke Lacrosse defendant Dave Evans), and they used it effectively against Ms. Mangum.
There is no doubt about the vindictive nature of the Carpetbagger families against anyone they perceived to have had a hand in the prosecution which stemmed from an incident in which their sons attended a beer-guzzling, stripper ogling party held in a Buchanan Street house on Duke property in March 2006. The Carpetbagger Jihad against former prosecutor Mike Nifong et al. was officially unleashed during a “60 Minutes” interview in which Ms. Evans promised that “he (Mike Nifong) would pay every day for the rest of his life” (for essentially having the audacity to do his job which happened to include charging their party-going boys with a sexual assault). The city of Durham, the state of North Carolina, and the media enthusiastically embraced this call for vengeance, and pursued, with relish, the destruction of Crystal Mangum, Mike Nifong, and others. And with regards to Ms. Mangum, they were successful, but not quite to the degree in which they had hoped or envisioned.
The arrest and slew of serious charges against Ms. Mangum were made for the purpose of justifying a high bail. Believing that the likelihood of Mangum bonding out was nil, it was the intent of the prosecution to drag out its case over several years while Ms. Mangum languished in jail awaiting trial. (This was the same successful strategy employed by prosecutor Bill Wolfe against defendant James Arthur Johnson who was incarcerated for 39 months before the case against him came to trial.) As in the Johnson case, after Mangum had served a couple of years in jail the prosecutors planned to offer her a plea deal to confess to a felony in exchange for “time served,” the threat being that she could face many more years in jail if convicted. After serving 88 days in the Durham Detention Center a benevolent and generous bail bondsman placed bond which resulted in Ms. Mangum being transferred to house arrest. With Mangum no longer incarcerated, and with prosecutors losing their major bargaining chip to reach a plea deal, they decided to move ahead with the flimsy case against her. Although the prosecutor would have liked to have kept Mangum locked up for two or three years, they realized that they would have to settle for three months. Their goal was now to seek a resolution that would place them and their agents in he best possible light and free of any subsequent civil legal entanglements.
With the three month incarceration following her February 17, 2010 arrest, severe personal damage was sustained by Ms. Mangum. Prior to her arrest Ms. Mangum worked full time, she had custody of her three children, she was enrolled as a graduate student at North Carolina Central University in the Masters program, she rented an apartment for her family, she had amassed personal property for herself and her children, she was able to help take care of her parents, and she was a financially independent individual in society, attempting to put her past Duke Lacrosse history behind her. The aforementioned she lost due to her arrest and three month incarceration, although Judge Abraham Jones did reinstate for Ms. Mangum the custody of her children.
I am of the opinion that the police, most likely Officer Tyler, started the fire in the bathtub, not Crystal or her ex-boyfriend. Police, prosecutors, lab technicians, investigators have often gone afoul of the law in order to win a conviction. In the James Arthur Johnson case, for example, the prosecutor planned to introduce two eyewitnesses to the crime after his main witness retracted his initial statement implicating Johnson. The two “so-called eyewitnesses” both had connections with the police department, and prosecutors discarded this strategy once the NAACP brought media attention to the case. In the Floyd Brown case, prosecutors came up with an alleged verbatim confession from a man who mental health experts testified was too retarded to have made. In the Gregory Taylor case prosecutor Tom Ford used perjured testimony procured through plea deals to convict an innocent man of murder. For the police to set blaze to clothes in a bathtub in a controlled setting in order to concoct a serious felony charge is not much of a stretch.
Why do I believe that police set the fire? The following reasons are but a few:
(1) Police made no attempt to put out the fire. All that was required was to turn on water in the bathtub. That is what you, me, or anyone possessing a modicum of commons sense and sanity would naturally do.
(2) Police had the opportunity to stage the fire after Officer Tyler ordered everyone out of the house because he “smelled smoke.” That is most likely when the fire was set.
(3) With the large number of police on scene, no one saw the bathtub fire actually being set, and police cannot provide a sensible narrative about what transpired from the time they arrived to when the fire was allegedly discovered.
(4) Police and prosecutors sought the most serious charge, first degree arson, when conditions did not merit it... the structure suffered on flame damage.
(5) Police, firemen, and prosecutors did not provide a list of clothing articles which allegedly filled the bathtub or the number of articles damaged by the fire. Are we to presume that a boyfriend who occasionally spends the night at the apartment has a bathtub full amount of clothing there?
(6) The fire report contains no documentation that there was any structural flame damage, only smoke damage to the building (i.e. the box for flame damage to the structure was not checked). I was told that some fire reports which I requested were confidential and I was denied access to them. Those fire reports which were delivered to me were vague. One fire report also exaggerated by stating that the fire department responded to what police described as a “structure fire with a subject trapped.” I believe that the firemen were misled by Officer Tyler.
(7) Although I was not present at the trial, it is my understanding that Judge Jones declared at the beginning of the trial that he would not allow the Durham Police Department to be put on trial. Why even make such a statement unless he had reason to believe the likelihood that the police had a hand in the fire and/or other misconduct?
(8) Police, especially Officer Tyler, realized when they arrived on a call to the residence of Crystal Mangum that they had an opportunity to somehow ensnare her into the criminal justice system. They seized upon the opportunity to the extent that they completely ignored the domestic complaint which triggered the 911 call. In other words, they ignored the fact that Crystal Mangum was repeatedly struck in the face by her ex-boyfriend and that her ex-boyfriend initiated the physical contact (he was never charged.) The media, as well as agencies and groups against domestic violence, kept silent regarding this.
The above are but a few of the glaring reasons why I believe police set the fire and why I have serious doubts as to Ms. Mangum’s involvement in it. And I am not alone in my beliefs. Media-types are aware that the charges against Ms. Mangum were bogus and directly related to a stealth vendetta strategy spawned by the Carpetbagger Jihad. That is why after the initial charges were made and subsequent stories about the case (especially the trial) were muted. For example, if you go to wral.com, the online site of CBS affiliate WRAL – TV 5, you will find a plethora of articles about Mangum’s arrest and events leading up to the trial, but no coverage about the trial itself, or the outcome. I understand that the shameful case made by prosecutors against Mangum was such an embarrassment that the media did all it could to shield it from the public. Coverage by the media was purposely sparse to keep from affording the public a chance to glimpse the cockamamie case against Mangum. And what coverage there was about the trial focused in large part on defining Ms. Mangum as the “False Duke Lacrosse Accuser” (what a way to assure that Ms. Mangum receives a fair trial). Many of the stories, including those by Associated Press, continue to mislead the readers by stating that the Duke Lacrosse defendants were declared innocent. (As I have written for some time, this is misleading because the defendants were not found legally innocent. Roy Cooper, the Attorney General had no authority and was overreaching when he declared the boys innocent. Cooper did so at the urging of defense attorney Joe Cheshire’s underling Brad Bannon… and of course the media has latched onto it for the purpose of repeatedly stating that the boys were “declared to be innocent.”) What the media (including the Associated Press) consistently uses when it drags Mike Nifong into any conversation about the Duke Lacrosse case, is that the North Carolina State Bar convicted him of twenty ethical charges. What charges?… the media doesn’t even name one. Furthermore the average person on the street can not only name one so-called ethical charge against Mike Nifong, they can not even give a reason for Mr. Nifong’s disbarment. And remember that although the media persistently talks about Mike Nifong’s disbarment, they never inform the public that Mike Nifong is the only prosecutor to be disbarred by the State Bar since its inception in 1933. Keep in mind that the people in the media are extremely intelligent. When it comes to Mike Nifong and the Duke Lacrosse case the media aim is to keep the people ignorant… and they have been able to mislead those in the public who are not savvy to their ways of bending, molding, fabricating, spinning and distorting the truth.
Regarding the defense of Ms. Mangum, there is no doubt in my mind that the public defender initially assigned to the case was working more to achieve an outcome that was most favorable to the prosecution. After all, they are both state employees. I believe that the goal of Mangum’s public defender was to have her plead guilty to a felony arson charge in exchange for a sentence of “time served.” At least, by going to trial represented by a private defense attorney, Mani Dexter, Ms. Mangum now has only misdemeanor charges on her record. The major problem that I have with the defense was that (to my knowledge) there was no attempt to obtain a change of venue. As I blogged earlier, this is one case that screamed for it… just like the case against James Arthur Johnson should have had a change of venue from the media inspired racially divided city of Wilson. The judge in the Johnson case denied the motion for venue change, and I am apt to believe that the same would have happened had Mani Dexter, Mangum’s attorney, sought one. I believe that Ms. Dexter’s defense was hampered significantly by rulings from the bench… rulings which may have thwarted an aggressive defense. But I feel that she could have more effectively challenged the misdemeanor charges. Instead of calling one witness, I believe that she should have called several, including Mangum’s ex-boyfriend, and Mangum’s older children. She should have thoroughly investigated and brought before the court the alleged “injured property” (clothing and alleged damage to the car). The defense of Ms. Mangum was featherweight, but the prosecution’s case against her had the weight of straw. A dedicated, determined, competent defense held in a court out of Duke University’s sphere of influence would have trounced the prosecution’s case and resulted in an acquittal on all charges, I strongly believe.
The Durham based jury did its duty by convicting Ms. Mangum on all of the misdemeanor charges against her, even though the charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor convolutedly relied on a guilty finding in the arson charge… a charge with which Mangum was not convicted. In other words, what is the jury’s basis for finding Crystal Mangum guilty of contributing to the delinquency of her children? Even Judge Jones did not find the charge credible as he reinstated custody to Ms. Mangum of her children. Although the jury deadlocked on the most serious arson charge, it delivered for the prosecution by convicting her on the misdemeanor charges. With those convictions, the police, firemen, prosecutors, and the state are absolved from any future civil prosecution for wrongful incarceration or civil rights violations.
Now Durham County prosecutor Mark McCullough, whose passionate courtroom oratory about his concerns for Ms. Mangum’s children’s safety when the fire was allegedly started, coyly stated to the press that he will take a month to consider re-trying Crystal Mangum in the future. I fail to see McCullough’s concern for Ms. Mangum’s children by a continued attempt to put the mother of the children they love in jail for years based on trumped up charges. Alas, the Carpetbagger Jihad has no consideration for children other than their own and those of the higher social class. Take this to the bank. McCullough’s bravado about considering to re-try Crystal Mangum is empty. There are a number of reasons why. First and foremost, doing so would risk exposing wrongdoing and misconduct by the Durham Police Department. Secondly, even in a Duke University dominated city, a conviction against the “false Duke Lacrosse accuser” could not be reach… in fact, the jurors polled nine to three in favor of acquittal on the charge. And third, the media is not supportive of the prospect of lingering coverage of a bogus charge which they know is based solely on Mangum’s role in the Duke Lacrosse case. A factor which I would not expect to entertain McCullough’s consideration is the tremendous expense and waste of taxpayer money in re-trying Ms. Mangum. If he thought he had a reasonable chance of prevailing at a second trial, expense would not be an obstacle, and the public, which would be unaware of the waste of their taxpayer dollars in doing so, would not object. But, this is all moot, as there will be no re-trial.
Finally, with regards to Jackie Wagstaff, I believe that her utterance of “this is ridiculous” was not intended to travel any further than to the individual seated next to her and to whom she was addressing. However, her emotional investment in the case inadvertently and unintentionally resulted in her blurting out the comment at a decibel level higher than intended. I believe the judge’s ten day sentence was extreme, especially with it lasting over the holidays, and I am hopeful that he will take the initiative to drastically reduce it. 24 hours housed in the jail is more than enough to make a point. (And was what I perceive to be the severity of her sentence due to Wagstaff’s position with regards to the Duke Lacrosse case?)
My final major conclusions:
(1) Ms. Mangum is fortunate to be freed at the conclusion of this trial;
(2) the charges and prosecution against Ms. Mangum were due to her role in the Duke Lacrosse case;
(3) the arson case against Ms. Mangum was bogus, and the fire most likely was started by Officer Tyler;
(4) the defense should have filed a motion for a change of venue, which would have most likely resulted in a trial held on a more level playing field;
(5) the media’s coverage was typically biased for anything related to Mike Nifong and Duke Lacrosse case; and
(6) the prosecution is satisfied with the trial’s outcome and will not risk a re-trial.
The one important thing to take away from this trial is that discrimination from all quarters exist against individuals who are supporters of Mike Nifong and/or whose opinions are not favorable and sympathetic towards the Duke Lacrosse defendants. It behooves people who fall into this category to be aware of this when they encounter a situation which might attract attention or authorities. Examples are Crystal Mangum’s treatment at the February 17, 2010 incident, and Ms. Wagstaff’s severe contempt of court punishment. From my own experience, I can attest to the discrimination and my near-arrest on the Duke University campus which was appalling. The Carpetbagger Jihad influence weighs heavily in North Carolina and throughout the United States, and that is truly shameful.