Critics question Clinton's record with women as rape victim speaks out
June 20th, 2014
03:22 PM ET
8 years 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.

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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. Sniffit

    Lame. This is a serious act of desperation. Attacking an attorney for zealously doing their job is ridiculous and I would not be surprised to see the ABA and other bar organizations pipe up to say so. It's particularly unfair when you're talking about someone who is a defense attorney, who of course is going to be defending people accused of horrible things. Are accused people not innocent until proven guilty? Guess who gets kicked out of a jury pool first: that's right, the people who raise their hand when asked "who here thinks the accused must have done SOMETHING wrong in order to get accused in the first place?" Should these people not be allowed to have attorneys? Are we now going to create severe backlash for anyone who represents anyone who is accused of something so that it deters anyone from representing them? This woman is just taking a chance to get revenge on someone she views as having victimized her because the guy she accused ended up taking a plea deal for a year in jail. She never said these things about Clinton until now...i.e., now that the partisan RWNJs sought her out in order to prompt her into making these statements as their collateral attack on Clinton's gender and to help them (they hope) battle the GOP/Teatrolls "war on women" accusations in 2016.

    June 20, 2014 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  2. katie

    anyone saying nasty things about the victim, what happend to you that has made you so mean? highly doubtful anyone knows the person to be able to know the factual truth and the fact that it is so easy for people to be so judgemental on something such as rape, wow, just wow.

    June 20, 2014 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
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