Biden accuser's credentials, expert testimony under scrutiny
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — State prosecutors in California are investigating the credentials that Tara Reade, the former Senate staffer who has accused Joe Biden of assaulting her in 1993, attested to in as many as 20 criminal trials, including an attempted murder case where her testimony was deemed “critical.”
The Monterey County District Attorney’s office said it never tried to verify the credentials on her resume before using her as a paid expert witness on domestic violence issues. Reade, who went by Alexandra Tara McCabe, made several claims on her resume and in court that have now come into question.
Reade said she had a bachelor’s degree from Antioch University, which the school denies. She said she worked in Biden’s office from 1991 to 1994, while Senate records show her there from December 1992 to August 1993. And she said she served as legislative aide for Biden while he worked on the Violence Against Women Act, while witnesses and records describe her holding a more junior role, sometimes supervising interns or handling mail.
“We are investigating whether Ms. McCabe gave false testimony under oath,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Berkley Brannon of Monterey County said Wednesday.
“At the time, we did not contact the schools she said she attended to see if they would disclose her records. We did not require that she provide proof of all the extensive professional training and experience listed on her CV (curriculum vitae),” Brannon told The Associated Press in an email.
Defense lawyers are also investigating her testimony, hoping to glean the extent of her work through county payment records. Brannon said it was not yet clear how often she gave expert testimony.
Reade, testifying in December 2018, said: “I was just doing the math. It’s been over 20 times.” A month later, before the same judge and prosecutor, she said the number was “I think at least 10.”
Defense lawyers could seek to have their clients’ convictions overturned in some or all of those cases, depending on the weight of the other evidence. The statute of limitations for perjury in California is three years, they said.
In the December 2018 case, Reade’s testimony helped send Jennifer Vasquez and Victoria Ramirez to prison for seven years to life in an arson and attempted murder case. The victim, a man, had been in a volatile relationship with Vasquez. He initially told police he saw two women running from the scene, but days later recanted, saying he had instead seen two men, defense lawyers said.
“She comes to court and says he’s probably lying (the second time) because it was a domestic violence situation,” said Roland Soltesz, who represented Ramirez. “When she started testifying, she immediately started talking about Joe Biden and the Violence Against Women Act. To me, that actually made her sound credible to the jury.”
A month later, after James Sloop, 41, was convicted of holding his ex-girlfriend against her will, prosecutors sent out a press release that said McCabe, “a domestic violence expert, provided critical testimony which aided the jury’s understanding as to why victims of domestic violence recant, minimize, and frequently stay in abusive relationships.”
Sloop is appealing the conviction, which led to a 17-year sentence on a firearm charge and other charges.
In both trials, the defense lawyers questioned Reade about her education and experience.
“Well, I worked originally for former U.S. Senator Joseph Biden as a legislative aide. He worked on the Violence Against Women Act. He was one of the sponsors,” Reade testified at Sloop's trial.
“Do you have an undergraduate degree?”
“Antioch University,” she replied, according to the transcript, which the AP obtained.
Reade this month has continued to challenge Antioch’s statement that she never finished a degree program there. However, she has not been able to produce any documentation. She did complete a law degree from the Seattle University in 2004, but said she never became licensed to practice law.
Reade, 56, changed her name to Alexandra McCabe after fleeting an abusive husband in 1996. She later returned to using Reade. Her career experience includes several stints working with domestic violence organizations, along with work with animal rescue groups.
“I have reached out to the DA and I am ready to assist anyway that is needed," Reade said Wednesday.
Reade earlier this year said that Biden digitally penetrated her and groped her in the basement of a Capitol Hill office building in spring 1993. Biden has vehemently denied her claims, and current and former Biden staffers say they cannot recall such an incident. Last week, as questions about her California court testimony emerged, prominent #MeToo lawyer Douglas Wigdor dropped Reade as a client.
Philadelphia defense lawyer Alan Tauber, who has worked on exoneration cases, said questions about an expert's qualifications can be “enough to stain a case."
“The assumption is if you have an expert here, they’ve been vetted,” said Tauber, now the city’s first assistant public defender. “If you were to find one dishonest thing in her credentials, the entire house of cards falls.”
___ Associated Press reporter Alexandra Jaffe contributed to this report from Washington.