The rise, fall and utter destruction through bankruptcy liquidation and fire sale that killed 8,000 jobs in Research Triangle Park – in other words, the blowup of Nortel – is a story that needs to be told. But don’t jump to any conclusions about who the “bad guys” are.

You know, the former executives hauled into court – and ultimately found not guilty.

Were they really?

Or were other factors – larger and more destructive – at play?

“Other,” says a new book.

James Bagnall, the associate business editor of The Ottawa Citizen who followed Nortel closely for years, explains how a “rush to judgment” in 2001 sealed the fate of the former telecom giant – and some 8,000 jobs in the Triangle in a new e-book published by his newspaper. Over the past decade, Bagnall has proved time and again to be the “go-to writer” when it came to documenting Nortel’s collapse. His big wrapup:

“100 Days: The Rush to Judgement That Destroyed Nortel.”

The newspaper has published a long excerpt, and it makes for riveting reading to anyone who has an interest in Nortel’s bankruptcy that is still being unraveled in courtrooms.

The story begins with a corporate meeting right here in RTP.

And as was indicated earlier, don’t rush to judgment about who the fall guys are.

“100 Days is the untold story about how corporate governance felled Nortel Networks, the legendary Canadian technology firm,” the newspaper says.

“What began in 2003 as a routine re-examination of the company’s balance sheet quickly transformed into a witch hunt as outside investigators concluded Nortel’s accounting was suspect – and the company’s directors accepted this as fact. It took nearly a decade before Ontario Superior Court Justice Frank Marrocco determined that no crime had been committed.

“The Ottawa Citizen’s associate business editor James Bagnall tells the surprising tale of the independent probe that started it all, the Texas assistant district attorney who didn’t buy its conclusions, and the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] officers and Ontario Crown attorneys who did,” the paper adds.

“100 Days is a chilling exposition of how three former Nortel executives were for years denied a presumption of innocence, before they finally had their day in court.”

A key event: A plunge in demand for Nortel optical gear just after the company was promising big growth in sales.

“For a moment, there was dead silence,” Bagnal writes of the crucial RTP meeting. “Everyone realized an important line had been crossed. What they knew, what [then-CFO Frank] Dunn realized more than anyone, was that investors had to be told quickly about the dramatic change in Nortel’s outlook.”

Thus begins the unraveling of the Nortel empire – and 8,000 jobs.

Read the excerpt online.

[NORTEL ARCHIVE: Check out more than a decade of Nortel stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]