DURHAM — Linwood Wilson, Mike Nifong's top investigator for much of the Duke lacrosse case, is out of a job today.
The abrupt departure of Wilson, 58, is the first personnel change since Jim Hardin, the temporary district attorney in Durham, was tapped last week to restore credibility and integrity to an office with a tarnished image.
Hardin could not be reached for comment Monday.
Candy Clark, the district attorney's office administrative assistant, said she could confirm that Wilson would not be an employee in the office today but could comment no further on his departure.
Wilson did not return a call seeking comment.
As chief investigator for the District Attorney's Office since December 2005, Wilson has been criticized by defense lawyers in the Duke lacrosse case and other Durham criminal cases for intimidating witnesses.
It was his interview in late December with Crystal Gail Mangum, the accuser in the lacrosse case, that led to the dismissal of rape charges against the three former Duke lacrosse players.
In that interview, according to Wilson's notes, Mangum changed her account of what happened to a version that seemed to address holes in the case brought to light by defense lawyers.
In departures from recommended police practice, Wilson interviewed Mangum without a law enforcement officer present, showed her photographs of the accused players and failed to record the one-on-one interview.
Questions about the interview arose during the N.C. State Bar procedures against Nifong this month that led to an order that Nifong be disbarred.
Lane Williamson, chairman of the disciplinary panel that punished Nifong, asked what kind of directions Wilson was given.
Nifong did not directly reply to some of Williamson's questions. But when asked why the interview had not been recorded, Nifong responded that Wilson would not be performing such tasks any more.
Nifong, soon to be stripped of his license, was suspended as district attorney last week.
Judge Orlando Hudson, the resident chief Superior Court judge who suspended Nifong with pay, set a hearing on a petition to officially oust the suspended district attorney for 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
Nifong could not be reached for comment.
Hardin, Durham's former district attorney who was appointed a Superior Court judge in 2005, was brought back temporarily to his old job while Gov. Mike Easley searches for a replacement who can serve until November 2008, when the next general election is scheduled.
When Hardin took over last week, he said the governor had asked him to review office policies, evaluate staff and recommend any changes that would help restore integrity to an office tainted by Nifong's handling of the Duke lacrosse case.
It was unclear Monday whether the Wilson departure was brought on by that evaluation.
In the lacrosse case, Wilson orchestrated the May 2006 arrest of taxi driver Moezeldin Elmostafa, who had provided information supporting an alibi of one of the accused lacrosse players.
This May, Hudson admonished Wilson for intimidating a witness in an assault and weapons case.
In that incident, a teenager who had accepted a plea bargain allegedly told Wilson in a subsequent meeting that he was the shooter, not his cousin who was awaiting trial on the shooting charges.
Wilson, according to a written statement read in court, told the teen who claimed to be the shooter that the District Attorney's Office could revoke his plea, when only a judge can do so.
Staff writer Anne Blythe can be reached at 932-8741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.