Critics question Clinton's record with women as rape victim speaks out
June 20th, 2014
03:22 PM ET
4 months ago

Critics question Clinton's record with women as rape victim speaks out

Washington (CNN) - The victim of a rape case, whose attacker Hillary Clinton defended in 1975, is speaking out publicly Friday for the first time since 2008, accusing Clinton of ruining her life.

"Hillary Clinton took me through Hell,” the victim, now 52, told Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast, who agreed not to publish the woman’s name.

Asked what she would say to Clinton today, the woman responded, "I would say [to Clinton], ‘You took a case of mine in ‘75, you lied on me… I realize the truth now, the heart of what you’ve done to me. And you are supposed to be for women? You call that [being] for women, what you done to me?"

The woman, according to Rogin, "described being afraid of men for years and dealing with anger issues well into her adulthood."

As a 27-year-old lawyer, Hillary Rodham (now Clinton) represented Thomas Alfred Taylor, a 41-year-old man accused of raping a 12-year-old girl. Based on court documents obtained by CNN and Clinton's own account in her 2003 memoir "Living History," she was able to win a plea deal for Taylor based on a forensic mistake that cast doubt on the semen and blood samples found in Taylor's underwear. In court documents, Clinton questioned the girl's emotional state as she sought a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation.

Clinton’s critics are highlighting the case, insinuating Clinton is not the champion of women she frames herself to be.

Rogin's interview followed a report earlier this week by The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative publication, that included an audio recording of a 1980s interview where Clinton talks about the case. The interviews were done by Arkansas reporter Roy Reed and found by the Free Beacon at the University of Arkansas library. In the interviews, Clinton retells the story of the case, acknowledging that she thought Taylor was guilty, at times, laughing.

"I had him take a polygraph, which he passed, which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs," Clinton tells Reed.

Conservatives seized on the recording, claiming Clinton is not the women’s rights crusader she is framed as, while Clinton supporters have said that the former secretary of state was just doing her job as a legal aid attorney, providing a defense for a man who could not afford a lawyer.

The 1975 rape case was first detailed in 2008 by then-Newsday reporter Glenn Thrush, (now at Politico) who interviewed the victim in the case. At the time she was in jail, serving a sentence for a check forging conviction, according to documents obtained by CNN.

The woman appeared to blame Clinton less at the time, telling Thrush "I have to understand that she was representing Taylor. I'm sure Hillary was just doing her job."

Clinton aides have declined to comment on the recent stories. But in 2008, then-Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson told Newsday that "as an attorney and an officer of the court, she had an ethical and legal obligation to defend him to the fullest extent of the law. To act otherwise would have constituted a breach of her professional responsibilities.”

The comment is similar to what Correct the Record, a pro-Clinton group run by a Democratic super-PAC, says about the case.

"This is the case of a young attorney who was told by a judge to defend an indigent client accused of a crime," Adrienne Elrod, the group's communications director said in a statement to CNN. "She not only carried out her legal and ethical responsibility to defend her client, but she went on to lead historic action in the fight against rape and to bring rapists to justice."

Many legal experts agree that Clinton was required, by law, to provide the best defense she was able.

"Once a defense attorney accepts a criminal case, she is obligated to work diligently to help her client and that can often be upsetting to prosecutors and even to victims," said Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's senior legal analyst and a former federal prosecutor. "That is how the system is designed to work."

Toobin added: "There is no such thing as a criminal defense attorney who only represents innocent clients. Part of the job of the defense attorney is to assist a client whether they are guilty or not."

To many Clinton supporters, the case is ancient history for a family that has been in the public eye for more than 40 years.

Clinton was new to Arkansas in 1975. She had followed her then-boyfriend Bill Clinton to his home state from Washington, D.C. and the two would soon be married. At the time, Clinton and Rodham lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas, teaching classes at the University of Arkansas.

Clinton, who was not a criminal defense attorney at the time but helped run the University’s legal aid clinic, wrote in 2003 that she was asked to take the case by Mahlon Gibson, the Washington County prosecuting attorney at the time. Gibson recommended Clinton to Maupin Cummings, the case's judge, partially because Taylor had specifically requested a woman lawyer.

"I conducted a thorough investigation and obtained expert testimony from an eminent scientist from New York, who cast doubt on the evidentiary value of the blood and semen the prosecutor claimed proved the defendant’s guilt in the rape," Clinton wrote. "Because of that testimony, I negotiated with the prosecutor for the defendant to plead guilty to sexual abuse."

Clinton goes on to write that the experience in the case led her to discuss "setting up Arkansas’s first rape hot line."

Based on court records, Clinton was aggressive in pursuing the case.

She petitioned the court to order the 12-year-old girl to submit to a psychiatric examination “at the defendant’s expense by a psychiatrist to be selected by the defendant to examine into her mental attitudes prior to trial," according to court documents obtained by CNN.

To justify the request, Clinton questioned the victim’s emotional state and honesty, saying "I have been informed that the complainant is emotionally unstable with a tendency to seek out older men and engage in fantasizing. I have also been informed that she has in the past made false accusations about persons, claiming they had attacked her body," documents show.

Clinton also noted that she was told by a child psychologist that children of the girl's age "tend to exaggerate or romanticize sexual experiences."

Because of the plea deal Clinton orchestrated, Taylor was convicted of unlawful fondling of a child under the age of 14, instead of first degree rape. He was sentence to four years of probation and a year in county jail.

CNN has attempted to reach out to Gibson, now 79 and still a lawyer in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Those calls and emails have gone unanswered.

Cummings, the judge in the case, died in 2000. The defendant, Taylor, died in 1992.

CNN's Brianna Keilar contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2016 • Hillary Clinton
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Bill

    Not to discount the trauma or anguish this woman experienced, but why did she wait 40 years to speak out? I guess Rove and his ilk pay pretty well. "The woman appeared to blame Clinton less at the time, telling Thrush "I have to understand that she was representing Taylor. I'm sure Hillary was just doing her job."

    June 20, 2014 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  2. Silence DoGood

    "Many legal experts agree that Clinton was required, by law, to provide the best defense she was able."
    ------------
    So Clinton upheld the Law and the legal profession, and did not make herself the moral judge and jury.
    Hey, that sounds like a person that I would want as president.

    I would love to hear what the radical right that dug this up from almost 40 years ago thinks a defense attorney should be doing?
    There is not a day goes by that some prominent conservative "steps in it" but they need to go back 40 years?
    This is a new low – I thought the birth certificate and Obama changing the weather was it – but this is pathetic.

    June 20, 2014 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  3. Marie MD

    She comes out now? I thought it was Lewinsky trying to capture another 15 minutes of fame. How much did the kochs pay her?
    I am more troubled by a catholic Italian Supreme Court judge saying that it's okay to buy a gun in a store then turn around and sell it even though that is breaking a federal law and you have signed papers stating you won't do so.
    This is right now news! and very scary!

    June 20, 2014 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  4. CryBabies

    Wow....Whats right and whats wrong?

    June 20, 2014 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  5. Ol' Yeller

    According to George Will's recent article this woman (the rape victim) is just getting special treatment anyway (that is george will, not me, saying that.... before the attacks begin).
    I think trying to use some 40 y/o case where Hillary defended the person who hired her or who she was appointed to defend is a little bit of a reach. Lawyers are ethically required to provide the best defense possible for their client.
    However... if we want to use things from that long ago (which I distinctily remember many righties on here crying foul when the story broke that romney had held the gay kid down in college and cut his hair- and he was not ethically required to do that!) then I guess bring it... the righties cannot run anyone who hasn't had serious or questionable issues on them in the last two weeks, much less 40 years.
    This should be fun!

    June 20, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  6. smith

    WOW, and smear a rape victim in 3-2-1..smh. Old news.

    June 20, 2014 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    smith

    WOW, and smear a rape victim in 3-2-1..smh. Old news.
    ----------------------------–
    Ask yourself this, Who is really smearing the rape victim? The people who are publicizing this "scandal", or the people who say this is old news. As it turns out, the people who are pushing this old news story are hard line conservatives.

    June 20, 2014 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  8. Malory Archer

    smith
    WOW, and smear a rape victim in 3-2-1..smh. Old news.

    ++++++++++++++++

    Nah, she's not a Dem, so there's no need for the reds to do so.

    June 20, 2014 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  9. Marty

    It appears the rape victim is still blamed 40 years later. Hillary got her again.

    June 20, 2014 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  10. Chris-E...al

    Its not funny how dems will defend a cluster of known liars and are able to keep a strait face . Insane and quite strange and worrisome for its got to be a mental health issue .

    June 20, 2014 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  11. O'drama ya Mama

    Makes you wonder why it took 40 years for her to speak up. Its not because Hillary is the potential 2016 candidate. She hasnt even announced that she is running. Why did this not come out in 2008 when Hillary did run for President? Also the fact that she has been convicted of check forging already proves she is a known liar and manipulator. I'd say this has 0 effect on Hillary.

    June 20, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  12. Rudy NYC

    Marie MD

    She comes out now? I thought it was Lewinsky trying to capture another 15 minutes of fame. How much did the kochs pay her?
    I am more troubled by a catholic Italian Supreme Court judge saying that it's okay to buy a gun in a store then turn around and sell it even though that is breaking a federal law and you have signed papers stating you won't do so.
    -------------------------------
    I could be mistaken, but I don't think that gun trafficking is outlawed at the federal level. It's one of those things that has been declared a states' rights issue. Every state makes their own laws, and enforce them in their own way.

    The agents in the "False and Frivolous" scandal were powerless to stop the gun mules from driving away with a trunk full of arms. They could no more follow them than a cop can follow someone who just walked out of a bar.

    June 20, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  13. patNY

    Hillary travels the world advocating on behalf of woman's rights in countries where women are subjugated, and THIS story somehow proves that Hillary couldn't give a rat's a s s about woman's rights? If this is what we can expect from the right wingers, Hillary might as well start measuring the drapes at the WH.

    June 20, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  14. Steve, New York City

    As deeply as I dislike Hillary, hard not to argue that she was doing her job at this time.
    How defense attorneys can sleep at night, defending disgusting people like Taylor is another story.

    June 20, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  15. Al-NY,NY

    just wait til the press conference where the GOP will be grandstanding about this even that happened 40 years ago. And although it was a tragedy for the victim, Hillary was required to do whatever she could. I guess the fact that her helping set up the rape hotline will not be a relevant facts to the ambulance chasing, scandal-mongers that will try to use this against her. as with Benghazi, it will have no effect. she will paste anyone the GOP puts out. the only one even capable of giving her a run touted his extreme-conservative creds today in front of the new Inquisition in DC. He won't even get the nomination since he isn't fanatical enough

    June 20, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  16. Bill

    WOW! Really? Hillary Clinton ruined her life? Not the rapist?

    June 20, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  17. just asking

    Bill
    WOW! Really? Hillary Clinton ruined her life? Not the rapist?
    --

    kind of like blaming the gun instead of the person that pulled the trigger right???

    June 20, 2014 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  18. barky

    Separation from God is hell. I think alot of you people live there.

    June 20, 2014 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  19. eloc35

    Dont need to look back 40 years. Just look back to when her husband was in office. If its ok for her husband to cheat on her in the public eye (as the leader of the free world) and she never said a word about it. She is about herself.

    Why didnt she speak out against her husband. Now we know why.

    June 20, 2014 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  20. eloc35

    Do you guys remember Harry Reid lie on Romney concerning taxes.

    Both sides do this guys. Just look back to 2012.

    June 20, 2014 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  21. don in albuquerque

    And for all those posting on how horrible Hillary is for this, what do you think attorneys do? Only defend butterflies, kittens and puppies? Kindergarten must be a nice place to spend your life.

    June 20, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  22. anthony78

    So whats the Republican record?
    So we have something to compare it too...

    Fair and Balanced, eh, Righties...

    June 20, 2014 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  23. Pander Bear

    Pathetic attempt by the right wing to tag Hillary. It was her JOB!

    June 20, 2014 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  24. yolanda

    I'm not a huge Hillary fan, but this is lame. It is ancient history and has zero relevance to her(Hillary's) fitness to seek or hold office. If anything, it shows that her professionalism outweighed her personal reprehension toward her client.

    June 20, 2014 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  25. Rick McDaniel

    Clinton is far from a good person. Lawyers are basically in the business of protecting criminals, at the expense of the victims.

    June 20, 2014 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
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