Cline says she's facing a conspiracy

New court filing runs 285 pages

jneff@newsobserver.comNovember 19, 2011 

District Attorney Tracey Cline continued her attack on Durham's top judge in a lengthy court filing made public Friday that accused Orlando Hudson of heading a conspiracy to discredit and punish her.

In a 285-page motion packed with passionate and personal attacks, Cline asked Hudson to remove himself from all pending criminal cases in Durham because of his rulings against Cline in several high-profile cases.

Hudson has the "reprobate mind of a monarch" who inappropriately tried "to intimidate, control and dictate the discretion of the district attorney."

Cline says Hudson enlisted defense lawyers Lisa Williams and Heather Rattelade in the conspiracy, along with J. Andrew Curliss, a reporter at The News & Observer. In September, Curliss wrote a three-part series, "Twisted Truth," using court documents that showed Cline's pattern of misstating facts and withholding evidence.

Cline and Hudson could not be reached for comment Friday evening.

Williams called the motion an aggressive smear tactic typical of Cline. "The (N&O) articles are based on court rulings, her testimony and her words," Williams said. "She indicted and convicted herself."

Rattelade said Cline had presented no evidence to back up her "bizarre" allegations. "I've had one conversation with Judge Hudson in my entire life," she said.

John Drescher, executive editor of The News & Observer, called the allegations of conspiracy "crazy."

"Our work has been fair and accurate," Drescher said. "We've reported these stories the same way as we've reported thousands of stories before it."

Drescher has repeatedly invited Cline to point out any errors in the stories. Cline has not, instead claiming that the newspaper has not fully described her views of the cases.

Three cases

Cline alleged that the conspiracy began when she refused to dismiss a murder charge against Derrick Allen, who was charged with the murder of a 2-year-old. Williams was Allen's lawyer

Cline said Hudson committed malicious misconduct when he ruled that Cline, as a prosecutor, violated Allen's rights, along with another prosecutor and the SBI.

In an order issued in a second case earlier this week, Hudson tossed out a murder charge brought against Michael C. Dorman II of Mebane, who was arrested last year trying to dispose of the bones of a presumed murder victim. Hudson ruled that Cline misrepresented facts to a judge and violated Dorman's rights in allowing the bones to be destroyed before the defense could test them for cause of death or identity.

In a third case Cline cited, Hudson granted a Durham man new access to files and documents in a 12-year-old rape case. David Yearwood alleges that Cline has made misstatements, hid evidence and violated his rights; he wants his conviction overturned. Hudson has not taken that case up this year. Rattelade is Yearwood's lawyer.

New claims

Cline's sprawling motion essentially accuses Hudson of letting his office become the nexus of the conspiracy against Cline.

In one of the few new items in the filing, Cline cited an email July 29, 2011, from Lisa Williams to another lawyer allegedly seeking information for Curliss. Cline wrote that 22 minutes later Williams forwarded the email to Hudson's assistant for Hudson's review. Cline quoted the email as saying, "I don't expect he can facilitate this in any way he may want it for his general knowledge about where we are in the process."

Cline argued that Williams' use of the word "facilitate" was proof that Hudson was actively abusing his power to attack Cline. Williams said Friday night that Cline's charge made no sense and that she looks forward to reviewing the emails in question.

Cline made another new charge in the document: mistakenly and repeatedly saying Curliss had been held in contempt of court in the Allen case. In 1998, Hudson ordered Curliss to produce his notes from a jailhouse interview with Allen conducted soon after Allen's arrest. He stayed his order, however, to allow The N&O to appeal.

Hudson reviewed the notes and kept them under seal. Curliss was not held in contempt and was not called to testify.

Neff: 919-829-4516

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