At The N&O, we're accustomed to having folks saying unpleasant things about us. Most of the time, we just smile, let it pass. Occasionally, we have to admit that the caller or letter writer is correct.
We try to draw the line when someone falsely accuses us of illegal behavior.
That's what Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline has done, repeatedly, in her legal battle against Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson. In her most recent court filing, Cline again says, in a sworn affidavit, that reporter Andrew Curliss was held in contempt of court in Durham in 1998.
In her affidavit, trying to disqualify Hudson from hearing a criminal case, Cline assembles her version of what happened to Curliss after his jailhouse interview with Derrick Allen in 1998:
"By this time, I knew that this reporter and the Raleigh News and Observer had a vested interest in the Allen case; in that in 1998 Curliss was held in Contempt of Court for refusing to follow a Court Order to provide the notes of an interview with Allen."
Let me say this as simply as I can: That is false. Not true. Didn't happen.
Here's what did happen: Curliss interviewed Allen, who was in jail after being accused of sexual assault and murder of a 2-year-old girl. He wrote a story about it. Durham prosecutors were interested in anything else Allen said, and they subpoenaed Curliss' notes.
The N&O did resist this subpoena. But we ended up submitting the notes for Hudson to review. Hudson ordered the notes turned over, but stayed his order while we appealed. Curliss was never called to testify, and he was not cited for contempt. Not in this case, not in any other case.
We have tried to point this out in news stories, but Cline doesn't seem to be getting the message. So today, I mailed (and e-mailed) a letter to her. It simply asks her to correct the court record and stop saying what isn't true.
Cline is angry that Hudson has dismissed charges against several high-profile defendants in Durham, some of them because of prosecutorial misconduct. Cline believes, incorrectly, that we have somehow conspired against her with Hudson and defense lawyers to compile our stories that have shown that she has withheld exculpatory evidence from defendants and made repeated misstatements in court. Now, while complaining about our work and Hudson's, she has made another one.
Since this misstatement involves us, we'd like to set the record straight. We trust that Cline will, too.
--Steve Riley, Senior Editor/Investigations