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North Carolina’s association of lawyers filed ethics charges Thursday against the prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse case, accusing him of breaking four rules of professional conduct when speaking to reporters about the sensational case where a black woman said she was raped by three white men. The punishment for ethics violations can range from admonishment to disbarment. Among the rules District Attorney Mike Nifong was accused of violating was a prohibition against making comments “that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused.” In a statement, the association said it opened a case against Nifong in March 30, more than two weeks after the party where a 28-year-old student at North Carolina Central University hired to perform as a stripper said she was raped. Another rule Nifong was charged with breaking forbids “dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation.” The association said that when DNA testing failed to find any evidence a lacrosse player raped the woman, Nifong told a reporter the players might have used a condom. The association said Nifong knew that assertion was misleading because he had received a report from an emergency room nurse in which the accuser said her attackers did not use a condom. Nifong dropped the rape charges last week after the woman wavered in her story. Nifong did not immediately return a call for comment. Nor did defense attorney Joseph Cheshire, who represents one of the three lacrosse players charged with sexual offense and kidnapping. The association’s charges will be heard by an independent body called the Disciplinary Hearing Commission, made up of both lawyers and non-lawyers.

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