The decades-old claims against Roy Moore cannot be tried in a court of law, as we all know, because of the statutes of limitations that govern the time constraints on bringing criminal charges have long elapsed. But the facts in the allegations made now by Moore's young accusers can be tested by all of us, by the means used by every special victims prosecutor and detective every day across this country.
Most victims of sexual abuse are alone when they are first approached by their molesters. It is rare that there is an eyewitness to that critical encounter. Not only did Leigh Corfman's mother Nancy Wells confirm the fact of the meeting, she also established the kind of grooming that pedophiles do to gain parental permission to be with the child. Moore had undoubtedly seen this scenario scores of times in front of the small county courthouse in which his own office was located.
A mother and a teenage girl about to go into a divorce proceeding in which Leigh's custodial care would be determined. Both women — mother and child — were vulnerable at the moment. The 32-year-old man — cloaked in the responsible role of prosecutor — offered to safeguard the teen.
From the mid-1970s, when I first investigated abuse cases involving members of the clergy, the same pattern emerged time after time.
A single mother, raising kids and working two jobs, was approached by the pastor, who offered to help. “Your child is better off in my care than on the mean streets,” went the typical opening. The older man would be a tutor or chaperone in his own private quarters, and the parent would be grateful, usually directing the at-risk child to do whatever — whatever — the good man told him or her to do.
When Moore asked for Leigh's phone number, she gave it to him. She had no reason to be fearful of him at that point, no reason to anticipate his plan.
Today, police would be downloading the text messages and phone records of Moore and each of his accusers to determine the number of calls and who initiated them, reading texts and e-mails, looking at photographs and selfies. It makes the crimes so much easier to establish, but none of these things were tools in those days.
The teenager described being taken to a cabin in the woods. Why would she make up a fact like that if it couldn't be independently established? In fact, the Washington Post journalists, who took pains to back up every element of Corfman's story just as a trained law enforcement official would, found that Moore had — or had access to — a mobile home at a remote distance from town, just as his accuser had described.
The details of the abuse — being undressed by Moore and seeing him strip down to his tight white underwear as his intentions became clearer — have the specificity of fact and emotion that strike to the heart of the matter.
Corfman wasn't silent. She made contemporaneous reports of these encounters with a man - a powerful public official respected in the community who was more than twice her age — to two of her friends. That kind of “outcry,” as the law calls it, would be admissible before a jury, and it is a strong indicator of truthfulness. It corroborates the timely reporting of a frightened child who was in over her head and unable to even consider going to the authorities with whom her abuser worked.
Like Beverly Young Nelson, the fifth accuser to emerge, these now mature women have the courage — perhaps emboldened by the last month's outpouring of similarly-situated victims — to put their names and faces to this story of abuse.
This is not sexual harassment. These matters are criminal sexual abuse, allegedly committed by a candidate for national office who was known back then in his town as having an unnatural attraction to teens deemed by the law too young to consent to such a relationship. Ignorance of the law is not a defense, by the way, but prosecutor Roy Moore was certainly not ignorant of Alabama's laws.
The facts in this particular set of cases are corroborated by independent evidence, well-articulated by the accusers and well-reported by journalists who first exposed them.
As thousands of young women have made clear to me throughout the last forty-five years of my advocacy, the events of their victimization are seared into their memories — into their minds' eyes — such that no denials have the ability to eradicate them now.
Linda Fairstein is an author and former prosecutor. Her most recent book is "Deadfall."
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