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US rape case prosecutor to resign

15 June 07 21:45 GMT

The US prosecutor of a high-profile sex abuse case in which three former Duke University students were cleared of all charges has said he will resign.

North Carolina District Attorney Mike Nifong, who once called the lacrosse players a bunch of hooligans, said the "community had suffered enough".

He announced his resignation at his own ethics trial on charges he broke rules of professional conduct in the case.

The three white men had been accused of raping a black woman at a party.

But in April, North Carolina's attorney general threw out all charges against Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David Evans, all members of Duke University's lacrosse team.

He said that, based on the significant inconsistencies between the evidence and the various accounts given by the accusing witness, a 27-year-old student from another college, he believed the students to be innocent.

The case was one whose apparent racist overtones had shocked America, with many people reminded of the treatment of black people by privileged whites in years gone by.

Law licence

Mr Nifong has been accused by the North Carolina State Bar of withholding DNA evidence from the students' lawyers.

He also allegedly lied to the court and made misleading and inflammatory statements about the accused.

These included declaring that he would not let Durham, the town where Duke University is based, become known for "a bunch of lacrosse players from Duke raping a black girl".

Mr Nifong has acknowledged making inappropriate comments but says he is not guilty of all the charges against him. He says he did not become aware that some of the DNA evidence was missing until months later.

If the bar's disciplinary committee finds him guilty, he faces losing his licence to practise law in the state. The trial could conclude as early as this weekend.

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