Collin Finnerty's D.C. Assault Conviction Is A Disgrace
If Collin Finnerty can be unjustly convicted, who is safe?
Friendsofdukeuniversity.blogspot.com is a discussion board for friends of Duke University worth checking. Understandably, it has been focusing on what it calls "the Duke Lacrosse Scandal." By now, it should be called the Duke Rape Hoax. Yes, the Duke men's lacrosse team exhibited egregious taste in "entertainment" (for which the co-captain seniors are primarily to blame), but the great scandals are (1) the way the criminal prosecution system has been abused for personal purposes by an incredible accuser (Crystal Gail Mangum) and for personal and political purposes by the Durham County District Attorney (Mike Nifong) and (2) the way liberals who would be apoplectic (understandably) if the accuser was a white woman with a similar criminal, medical, mental and moral history and the three accused were black basketball stars think (or pretend to think) that the Durham District Attorney is just doing his job in a fair, objective and professional manner and everyone should wait for the trial whenever next year and hope that district attorney can somehow win a conviction from a local jury against three white Yankees from wealthy families.
One section on the friendsofdukeuniversity website is called "Collin's DC trial," referring to the misdemeanor assault trial based on a incident last November that was not supposed to go to trial, but just did, because Collin Finnerty was arrested at the instance of Ms. Mangum, who accused Mr. Finnerty and two other Duke lacross players with kidnapping, rape and sexual assault, and Mr. Nifong proceeded to obtain an indictment charging the three accused with those terrible crimes instead of treating the charges as delusional (or worse).
The D.C. case resulted in Mr. Finnerty being convicted of assault after a two-day bench trial.
The trial itself and the conviction are travesties of justice for at least three reasons: (1) Mr. Finnerty's plea deal (25 hours of community service to put an end to the very expensive nuisance) should not have been voided under the circumstances (the accuser's identifications having been the result of an unconstitutionally suggestive identification procedure and the accuser and her story being dubious and unsupported by physical evidence, another person or a polygraph test), (2) the judge (Judge John H. Bayly, Jr.) who decided the case behaved oddly (one example: he seemed obsessed with the possibility (NOT reality) that Mr. Finnerty may have violated the curfew he imposed on Mr. Finnerty, to the point that he stated in open court that he would check out a lead he had gotten from an unchecked item posted on the Wonkette website); and (3) the judge was blind to the ample reasonable doubt established by multiple defense witnesses who were present, the chief complainant's personal history, and Mr. Finnerty's unrebutted character witnesse (Father James Williams, the head of Chaminade, and Michael Hannan, the father of Mr. Finnerty’s girlfriend Jessica, praised Mr. Finnerty as peaceful and nonviolent and a gentleman) and his very impressive and unblemished record at the time of the incident.
The judge chose to belief, beyond a reasonable doubt, Jeffrey Bloxsom's supremely self-serving claim that Mr. Finnerty fake-punched him and shoved him. The judge must have disbelieved three defense witnesses who said that Mr. Finnerty did no more than yell at the two complainants as far as they could see. If the judge really believes Mr. Bloxsom's tale of woe beyond a reasonable doubt, will he ask the prosecution to pursue the three defense witnesses for perjuring themselves?
What makes the judge's decision to convict especially suspect is that NOBODY witnessed Mr. Finnerty throw a REAL punch and the fact that the testimony of Mr. Bloxsom and his friend Scott Herndon had never used bad words or otherwise acted belligerent didn't pass the laugh test. Four defense witnesses (Nicole Cobble, Bill Gerrish, Dan D’Agnes and Patrick Bonanno) testified quite credibly that all of the persons involved in the incident were screaming bad words at each other before blows were struck. It is very hard to believe that there would have been a trial if Messrs. Bloxsom and Herndon had been as passive and non-provocative as they claimed to have been. .
Ms. Cobble said that she saw them all shouting bad words at each other, with Mr. Finnerty and another (probably Mr. Bloxsom) “nose to nose and chest to chest.” She said she ran off crying before seeing any blows struck or any pushing. Messrs. Gerrish, D’Agnes and Bonanno said that they had stopped around Wisconsin and N Streets (or perhaps a bit before there, in the case of Mr. Gerrish) while Mr. Finnerty continued north on Wisconsin for another half block or so. Mr. Gerrish said that he saw the first blow, which was Mr. Herndon hitting Mr. Finnerty in the back of the head. Mr. Bonanno said he had not seen it but had looked up and seen Mr. Finnerty sprawled on the ground with Messrs. Bloxsom and Herndon standing over him. Messrs. D’Agnes and Bonanno hastened to help Mr. Finnerty, Mr. Bonanno punched Mr. Bloxsom, the fight petered out, and Messrs. Finnerty, D’Agnes and Bonanno went down N Street.
No one was seriously injured. Mr. Bonanno gave Mr. Bloxsom a cut lip.
The following comments at the friendsofduke website are illuminating:
"Obviously it is 'open season' on the Lacrosse players and everyone is taking the opportunity to 'feed' on them. This appears to be a grim situation...."
"[T]he intimation... that Bloxsom was walking along the street minding his own business when he was 'attacked' would be laughable but for the seriousness of the charges. He was with two other people, also older than...the students by several years, both of whom declined to press any charges, and there are other facts (referred to in the prosecutor's statement about words being exchanged on both sides) that clearly demonstrate that this was far from a one-sided 'attack.' In fact, when the Duke case was brought, it was Bloxsom who contacted the NY Times to make the connection between the two cases, after which he stated that he was so 'besieged by the media' that he was 'contemplating a civil lawsuit.' Perhaps he'd had a chance to google Collin or see the Duke coverage in the meantime and conclude there was money to be made. Even Bloxsom's parents subsequently issued a statement chastising their own son, saying he should not be talking about filing a civil suit and that he should get over this and move on. It's incredible to me how many parasites there are out there. Part of me would really look forward to a trial -- once the real facts of the D.C. case come out and Jeffrey is cross-examined about what really happened, then another user can be exposed for trying to manipulate the system for his own vindictive and perverse satisfaction and these kids can be cleared. As a long-time attorney, I've found both these cases to be very discouraging examples of just how poorly served one can be by the 'justice' system.
"Greta set the record straight tonight. Collin already had permission to miss the curfew that night. His mother sent Greta the email."
"It was the fault of the DC court agency that handles diversionary deals to not tell the judge that collin's attorneys had asked for 2 days in durham to deal with the rape case. These 2 days were approved by that group. Well, I hope the judge in dc apologizes to collin but i believe he will not. These poor kids have been thru enough!"
"How many of those who are issued these kind of probationary agreements in DC have their agreement revoked because of failure to perform their end of the bargain?
"(For example, how many of them fail to perform their required community service?)
"And how many of these are simply ignored afterward?
"How many of those who have had their agreements revoked are ever sought out again by the police? (And how many are simply ignored?)
"How many of these are then strictly watched as to the enforcement of additional rules such as curfews?(And how many are ignored and not watched at all?)
"And how many in all of the above categories are 'privileged white males'?
"Is there a difference between the way the DC courts treat 'privileged white males' and all others?
"(Methinks there might be the stuff of a civil rights case here.)
"The DC courts must have a lot of extra time on their hands and a lot of empty courtrooms available if they are going to all of this effort over one dust-up, conceded to have not been a hate crime, outside a bar, in which apparently one punch was thrown by the accused.
"Can all this scrutiny and effort be solely the result of the nature of the offense?
"How many bar fights end up with this kind of attention, and what kinds of punishment are meted out?
"What is the evidence given by the statistics?"
"I agree with the observations of the previous poster -- in addition, regarding his comment: 'The DC courts must have a lot of extra time on their hands and a lot of empty courtrooms available if they are going to all of this effort over one dust-up, conceded to have not been a hate crime, outside a bar, in which apparently one punch was thrown by the accused.'
"I would add that it has not even been established yet that 'one punch was thrown by the accused.' Moreover, when all the facts of the alleged incident are revealed, it will be more clear what exactly happened and why, if at all, one of the accused would have even possibly raised a hand in the first place. Try self-defense? Let's see what poor Jeffrey has to say when he's got his feet to the fire instead of the other way around. What may have seemed like a good idea at the time to fabricate for the police an account of events in order to soothe his wounded ego because he came out on the wrong end of an incident in which he was at least as equally culpable may, if there is any justice, come back to haunt him."
"[W]e must be living in a justice system from hell, if doing nothing can put you in violation of a deferred prosecution agreement.
"Yes, if someone actually participates in conduct which results in his arrest, then he can be considered in violation. (The rule does not require actual conviction, because it is possible that a conviction might not be obtained.)
"But to consider that the intention of the revocation rule is that even persons who are the victims of false charges are to be included in it and have their agreements revoked, is to mean that the government endorses the false charge (and the process of making false charges); and renders it as guilty as the false accuser of perverting justice.
"(But will anyone in Washington care?)"
"From what I have read of the judge in this case, he seems to be sympathetic to the plight of minorities and tries to help defendants work through their problems.
"All of that is fine and I heartily endorse it; but I am afraid that in this case it may lead to him leaning over backward to show that he is not giving preferential treatment to a wealthy white youth.
"And perhaps, knowing that there is nothing against the defendant (as will be shown by the evidence); but also knowing that the community expects some sort of punishment to be meted out, I'm afraid he may try and compromise.
"(Pontius Pilate, whom I consider must be the patron saint of all judges and politicians, set the example : flog the prisoner a bit, even though he is innocent, and maybe that will satisfy the mob.)
"So perhaps the judge here will end up trying to give some kind of 'partial punishment' : a few days in jail, plus a fine, and that will satisfy the expectations of the 'mob'.
"But in fact, that would not be just,
(since there can be no 'partial justice'); an innocent should be set free, regardless of the reaction of the local community.
"(Which is why I also endorse the idea of a change of venue here. If this case were being heard in another jurisdiction--Alaska or even Guam--in a strictly 'neutral' zone--then there would be no pressure on the judge to offer up some sort of conviction to the community.)
"And surely a defendant in our system deserves--even in fact as the right to--an impartial jurisdiction, where there is no pressure on the judge."
"I'm incredulous that a false accusation is sufficient to cause the revocation of a deferred prosecution agreement.
"Suppose a woman with a known history of making false accusations phones the DC police and claims that someone assaulted her. She identifies someone at random from a newspaper photo.
"This person is then arrested. (No matter that he may have been elsewhere at that time or that there was absolutely no other evidence than the claimant's ID of him.)
"After an investigation (when the police verify his alibi) he is then released; but in the meantime his deferred agreement is canceled; because, technically he has been 'arrested'.
"That would be a complete mockery of any kind of justice system.
"Yet how is that any different from what has occurred in this case?
"It is clear that the initial charges were bogus. That the DA would not look at exculpatory evidence does not invalidate that evidence or mean it does not exist; it means only that the DA refuses to drop the charges against someone who is demonstrably not guilty.
"Yet the court in DC seems not to be able to act independently of the directions given it by Nifong, and continues to treat Finnerty as though there were in fact some kind of evidence against him, and that he had willingly done something to cause his arrest.
"NOW, there is not even the presumption of innocence; there is a presumption of guilt, no matter that it is based on false charges.
"To maintain this is anything other than a legal charade, and that the revocation of the agreement was anything other than a bureaucratic technicality from which the DC court, in the best bureaucratic tradition, refuses to back down, is to be willfully blind to what has occurred.
"There is still time for the DC court to act independently and reinstate the deferred agreement (since in fact no violation occurred) and return matters to the status quo ante.
"But is anyone in Washington really willing to step up to the plate?"
"(What follows are just some of my incoherent ramblings, to be read for amusement only.)
"Several of the figures around the AV have been arrested since this case began (by Nifong, I assume, since the Durham police chief seems to have become invisible). Two of them are currently in jail (her ex-husband and her current boyfriend); another friend was arrested and now is awaiting trial.
"The other stripper's' ex-husband was also arrested and held for a few days. And then there was the immigrant taxi driver who was arrested on an out-of-date warrant. (Durham presently has some 35,000 unserved warrants.)
"Is all this supposed to be just coincidence? (Can you spell, 'intimidation'?) And the other stripper had her bail reduced in another case after a meeting with the prosecution; and the Durham police chief's daughter has some problems with the law, too.
"So pardon me if I come to wonder about come to the handling of the DC case. Did anyone in Durham request the canceling of the diversion agreement? Was that, too, intended to be intimidation? Collin appears (from this distance) to have been under intense scrutiny; the judge has even threatened him with jail when he supposedly missed a curfew (although he had permission to be absent).
"Now, DC used to be the murder capital of the USA; I assume it also has some other crimes to which the court might profitably devote its time. But this case has received, IMHO, much more attention than is warranted by the gravity of the so-called offense. And now there is to be a full blown trial (for what amounts to a bar fight--not even that, apparently, but only one punch, of disputable nature). How much more time/oversight/scrutiny is being devoted to this than it would receive normally?
"Are the DC prosecutors (or the ones who made these decisions) happy at being made to seem party to what appears to be an effort to intimidate the principals in the Durham case?
"(End of speculation alert). Comments welcome; and corrections if I am wrong, thankfully welcomed."
"Now let's hope that the judge in DC makes a sensible decision in that case this coming week and martyr Jeffrey gets his just desserts for trying to manipulate the legal system and destroying someone's life and reputation merely to avenge his own wounded pride."
"So the police say (according to a TV report) that there are 10-12 fights like Finnerty's every night in that part of town?
"How many of those end up with a full-blown trial?
"Is somebody trying to pressure Finnerty because of the Durham case?
Nah... why would I think that? (After Nifong arrested all of the associates of the AV, the taxi driver, etc., on old warrants, and is still holding some of them in jail. . .)"
"This is insane. The judge is citing a BLOG, for heaven's sake?! What in the world is going on here?"
"And besides citing a blog, when the attorney tells him that the blog is wrong and Finnerty wasn't even in DC that night, the judge says he's not satisfied with that answer and will look into it.
"IOW, he's calling Finnerty's lawyer a liar from the bench.
"So how unprejudiced can this judge be?
"It has seemed from the first that the DC prosecutors have just been itching to catch Finnerty in some kind of infraction. Nobody else in the DC court system gets this kind of attention (and certainly not for a misdemeanor offense). If that's not evidence of prejudice then I don't know what is.
"There was also some testimony from the bouncer at the Daily Grill that the judge cut off. From the way things have been going, I'm sure it must have been going to benefit the defense.
"This trial is a farce."
"Wonkette appears to be more honest and have more of a conscience than the DC prosecutor's office and the judge :
"'We don’t particularly want to be responsible for any wrongful convictions, even if they’re wrongful convictions of guys we happen to personally think probably are total [word deleted]. . ."
"And the letter goes on to say that the info in their column is comprised of sightings of famous people around town reported to them by the public, and not fact checked "
"Wonkette?!!!! An anonymous gossip listing - the judge cited that??????- that's grounds for an appeal - it was prejudicial and not an official source- what a joke!"
"Tucker Carlson said that Collin would not have been convicted had it not been for the false accusation in Durham."
"Finnerty's trial seemed frivolous-- Much Ado About Nothing. College kids and twenty-somethings are always getting into altercations outside of bars. It happens regularly on Franklin Street, Chapel Hill. Collin did not even make contact with this Jeff fellow. He called him a name while being called names. Alcohol was involved. It sounds much like the 'make-believe rape.' It was a 'make-believe assault.'"
"Why on earth would the U.S. Attorney's Office in D.C., in the face of what the police chief has just described as a crime emergency in the city, assign not one, but two, AUSAs to handle one misdemeanor -- Rhonda Redwood and George Varghese. For God's sake, what is the world coming to when we have to make the world safe from Collin Finnerty and a dubious bar scuffle with 2 men nearly 10 years older than he and his friends where the only physical contact he made was with the receiving end of a drunken Scott Herndon's fist to his head while multiple murders in that city go unsolved?"
"I love the irony of the judge's ruling -- Collin must be in school full-time. How is he supposed to go to his own school when they won't have him because he's been falsely accused of a crime that he didn't commit and that never happened? Is he supposed to take some non-credit courses (and pay still more money!) for school on Long Island while this idiocy continues? At this point, what school would even take the poor kid? He's guilty of BWC -- breathing while Collin. Based on the cowardly way that potential employers dropped many of the lacrosse players like rocks even if they weren't indicted, and based on the despicable way that these guys have been treated by Duke, what college is possibly going to step up and take him, and what classroom is he going to feel comfortable sitting in? Does going to school online count? Based on this judge's ruling, I'd say he would refuse that and insist that Collin run some kind of gauntlet everyday to fulfill his ruling. I would guess that Collin will not be able to go to school and will instead opt to work somewhere (the other alternative offered by the judge), which will mean that he will take still another year to graduate from school. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving. When is enough enough? Can't wait to see if Bloxsom and Herndon try to sue him next. After all, Herndon does have a big bar tab to pay and Bloxsom is getting married (as he repeatedly reminds anyone who will listen) and could use some cash to pay for the wedding."
"Why on earth would the U.S. Attorney's Office in D.C., in the face of what the police chief has just described as a crime emergency in the city, assign not one, but two, AUSAs to handle one misdemeanor?
"As you know, the ultimate oversight of DC belongs to the Senate. I've written to my senator asking this very question--besides being a squandering of resources, it also raises the question of whether there was a deliberate attempt to get Finnerty a conviction, so that he (like Evans) would have a conviction prior to trial. I've asked my Senator to request a written response from the DC Attorneys to a number of questions regarding their actions. I urge you all to do the same. They are responsible to the public (that's us), so let's have some answers."
If the people don't hold public officials accountable, who will?
Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member.
Gaynor graduated magna cum laude, with Honors in Social Science, from Hofstra University's New College, and received his J.D. degree from St. John's Law School, where he won the American Jurisprudence Award in Evidence and served as an editor of the Law Review and the St. Thomas More Institute for Legal Research. He wrote on the Pentagon Papers case for the Review and obscenity law for The Catholic Lawyer and edited the Law Review's commentary on significant developments in New York law.
The day after graduating, Gaynor joined the Fulton firm, where he focused on litigation and corporate law. In 1997 Gaynor and Emily Bass formed Gaynor & Bass and then conducted a general legal practice, emphasizing litigation, and represented corporations, individuals and a New York City labor union. Notably, Gaynor & Bass prevailed in the Second Circuit in a seminal copyright infringement case, Tasini v. New York Times, against newspaper and magazine publishers and Lexis-Nexis. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, 7 to 2, holding that the copyrights of freelance writers had been infringed when their work was put online without permission or compensation.
Gaynor currently contributes regularly to www.MichNews.com, www.RenewAmerica.com, www.WebCommentary.com, www.PostChronicle.com and www.therealitycheck.org and has contributed to many other websites. He has written extensively on political and religious issues, notably the Terry Schiavo case, the Duke "no rape" case, ACORN and canon law, and appeared as a guest on television and radio. He was acknowledged in Until Proven Innocent, by Stuart Taylor and KC Johnson, and Culture of Corruption, by Michelle Malkin. He appeared on "Your World With Cavuto" to promote an eBay boycott that he initiated and "The World Over With Raymond Arroyo" (EWTN) to discuss the legal implications of the Schiavo case. On October 22, 2008, Gaynor was the first to report that The New York Times had killed an Obama/ACORN expose on which a Times reporter had been working with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief.