Washington (CNN) – The prosecuting attorney in a nearly four-decade-old criminal case, where Hillary Clinton represented a man accused of raping a 12-year-old girl, is backing the potential 2016 candidate on the issue.
Mahlon Gibson told CNN on Wednesday the then 27-year-old Hillary Rodham (now Clinton) was "appointed" by the judge in the case, even though she voiced reservations.
In 1975, Clinton represented Thomas Alfred Taylor, a 41-year-old man accused of raping a young girl, for free while working at the legal aid clinic at the University of Arkansas.
Based on court documents obtained by CNN and Clinton's own account in her 2003 memoir "Living History," she won a plea deal for Taylor, securing a significantly reduced charge and sentence, based on a forensic mistake that cast doubt on the semen and blood samples found in the defendant’s underwear.
Clinton’s critics highlighting the case insinuate it shows that Clinton is not the champion of women’s issues she frames herself to be, pointing to court documents that show Clinton questioned the girl's emotional state and an audio recording of Clinton from the 1980s where she says she believed her client was guilty.
The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website that obtained and released the audio, alleges Clinton agreed to represent Taylor. In the Beacon recording, Clinton says she took the case "as a favor."
Gibson said that it is “ridiculous” for people to question how Clinton became Taylor’s representation.
“She got appointed to represent this guy,” he told CNN when asked about the controversy.
According to Gibson, Maupin Cummings, the judge in the case, kept a list of attorneys who would represent poor clients. Clinton was on that list and helped run a legal aid clinic at the time.
Taylor was assigned a public defender in the case but Gibson said he quickly “started screaming for a woman attorney” to represent him.
Gibson said Clinton called him shortly after the judge assigned her to the case and said, “I don't want to represent this guy. I just can't stand this. I don't want to get involved. Can you get me off?”
“I told her, ‘Well contact the judge and see what he says about it,’ but I also said don't jump on him and make him mad,” Gibson said. “She contacted the judge and the judge didn't remove her and she stayed on the case.”
Gibson said this was likely the only conversation he had with Clinton and said they have not once been in touch since the case.
Once Clinton was assigned, Gibson said, she had a legal obligation to represent Taylor to the fullest, and she did.
“I would say she did a heck of a job of representing her client to the best of her ability,” he said. “If you are appointed by the court, you damn better do everything you can do to defend them.”
The victim in the case, now 52 years old, spoke out last week for the first time since 2008, accusing Clinton of ruining her life.
"Hillary Clinton took me through Hell,” she told Josh Rogin, senior correspondent at the Daily Beast and CNN political analyst, 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?"
Clinton hasn’t commented on the case recently but in her 2003 memoir, she wrote that she “really didn’t feel comfortable taking on such a client, but Mahlon [Gibson] gently reminded me that I couldn’t very well refuse the judge’s request.”
Based on court records, Clinton aggressively defended Taylor.
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.
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.
Cummings, the judge in the case, died in 2000. The defendant, Taylor, died in 1992.