Prosecutors in Monterey County, California have launched a formal investigation into Tara Reade, the woman who recently accused presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former senator Joe Biden of sexual assault.
Reade, who also went by the name Alexandra McCabe, offered expert testimony in dozens of criminal cases as a special victim’s advocate, according to numerous reports.
But some of her sworn testimony has come under fire following investigations by CNN and other news outlets that show inconsistencies in her education and employment background.
Reade made international headlines earlier this year after accusing Biden of sexual assault while she worked as an employee of the senator’s office in the early 1990s (Biden has denied the accusation). Years later, Reade found herself in Washington state where she claimed she graduated from Antioch University in Seattle with an Associate’s Degree and received a law degree from Seattle University.
Reade offered that part of her education history under oath in numerous cases brought by the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, some of which resulted in criminal convictions. But reporters who contacted Antioch University to confirm her education history were told she never graduated from the school.
Reade also misconstrued the nature of her work in Sen. Biden’s office, according to one report, testifying under oath that she worked as a legislative assistant when she was actually a staff assistant, according to employment records obtained by the New York Times. And in one 2018 case, Reade said she had not taken the California bar exam, even though blog posts written by her several years earlier said she twice failed the exam.
Prosecutors are now going through cases dating back several years to see if Reade intentionally lied while on the stand, according to POLITICO. An official with the prosecutor’s office said it’s unclear how many cases Reade testified in because the county doesn’t have a way to sort through cases digitally.
“We have no database or search engine to use to determine how many cases she testified,” Berkley Brannon, the county’s chief assistant district attorney, told POLITICO.
If Reade is found to have exaggerated her qualifications on the stand, it could be grounds for a reversal of some criminal convictions, Sacramento criminal defense attorney Mark Reichel told the New York Times last week.
“An expert can only testify in certain circumstances,” Mark said. “One of them is that they have expertise above the regular person. The jury is entitled to hear your qualifications.”
An attorney who agreed to represent Tara Reade after she accused presidential candidate and sitting senator Joe Biden of sexual assault has dropped her as a client following numerous news stories describing inconsistencies in her education and employment background.
Douglas H. Wigdor, an attorney who represents clients engaged in various employment-related litigation, said on Friday his firm’s decision to part ways with Reade was not a reflection on whether Reade’s accusations against Biden were true or false.
Wigdor had agreed to represent Reade after the woman came forward in March with an accusation against Biden stemming from her work as a staff employee in his senate office in the early 1990s. During a podcast interview, Reade claimed Biden sexually assaulted her.
Biden has denied the accusation.
Since March, political reporters have questioned Reade and Biden about the allegation, with one journalist uncovering a phone call made to CNN’s Larry King Live in August 1993 that appeared to corroborate some of Reade’s story.
But other information has surfaced that cast doubt on Reade’s credibility. On Tuesday, CNN published a report detailing the result of a lengthy investigation into Reade’s background and statements, including her assertion that she graduated with an Associate’s Degree from the Seattle campus of Antioch University.
Officials at Antioch University acknowledge Reade took some classes in the early 2000s but did not graduate from the school. Reade later said a legal name change required her to graduate from the school through a special program, but Antioch University officials said no such program existed.
That could prove problematic for dozens of criminal cases in Monterey County, California in which Reade testified as an expert witness. As part of her testimony, Reade — then known as Alexandra McCabe — offered details about her education and employment background; several times, she testified that she received a degree from Antioch University before graduating with a separate law degree from Seattle University.
In some cases, Reade also testified that she worked as a legislative assistant while employed by Biden’s office. But employment records obtained by the New York Times revealed Reade’s actual position was that of a staff assistant, not a legislative assistant. A legislative assistant is a more senior position compared to that of a staff assistant, the newspaper said.
On Wednesday, the Monterey County Weekly said defense attorneys were now combing through dozens of criminal convictions to see if those cases can be re-opened.
Those attorneys include county public defenders who are in the process of making a list of clients whose cases involved Reade’s testimony, the Times reported.
“An expert can only testify in certain circumstances,” Sacramento criminal defense attorney Mark Reichel told the newspaper. “One of them is that they have expertise above the regular person. The jury is entitled to hear your qualifications.”
Defense attorneys representing clients who were convicted in criminal cases are moving to have those cases re-examined and convictions possibly thrown out due to one key element in each case: Tara Reade.
Reade, who also goes by the alias Alexandra McCabe, testified as an expert witness in several California criminal cases over the past decade, offering her experience as a survivor of spousal abuse.
Reade made international headlines in March after she accused presidential candidate and current senator Joe Biden of sexual assault. She repeated the allegation a few weeks later in an interview published by the New York Times. In both interviews, Reade claimed the assault happened while she was working as a campaign staffer at Biden’s Capitol Hill office in the early 1990s. (Biden, who is in the middle of a presidential campaign, denied Reade’s allegation earlier this month.)
As reporters worked through the details of Reade’s allegation, some journalists began fact-checking her time at Biden’s office. Reporters with the PBS NewsHour spoke with more than six dozen people who once worked for Sen. Biden. While some staff members admitted Biden was a “toucher” who sometimes made them feel uncomfortable, no one interviewed by the news organization said Biden had sexually harassed or assaulted them, and all of the former staffers were adamant they had not heard rumors about Biden harassing or abusing others until Reade went pubic with her accusation.
When questioned about her degree status, Reade told reporters she graduated under a special arrangement with Antioch University’s chancellor following a legal name change. An unofficial transcript from Seattle University, where Reade received a separate degree, listed Antioch University as a prior degree-granting institution, according to one report.
That could prove problematic after Reade said, under oath, that she received a degree from Antioch University while testifying as an expert witness in dozens of cases brought in Monterey County, California. Defense attorneys there are now combing through cases connected to Reade’s testimony to see if they can be re-opened based upon these new media revelations.
In one case, Reade not only swore under oath that she received a degree from Antioch University but also claimed to be currently working as a substitute teacher. Employment records obtained by the Times showed she was actually working as a staff assistant.
During the trial, defense attorney Roland Soltesz objected, saying Reade’s work experience didn’t qualify her as an expert witness. The judge overruled the objection. Soltesz’s client was sentenced to several life terms after being convicted of attempted murder, armed robbery and arson, the Times said.
Now Soltesz is seeking to have that case, and possibly others, re-examined.
“People have been convicted based upon this, and that’s wrong,” Soltesz told the newspaper.
While making a false statement during sworn testimony in court is a crime, prosecutors must prove that the person who made the false statement did so with knowledge and intent to deceive. Those elements can be difficult to prove, legal experts say.
But defense attorneys could have an easier time pursuing a reversal of a verdict if they can show that Reade exaggerated her education and employment history — qualifications that once earned her a spot in the witness stand.
“An expert can only testify in certain circumstances,” Sacramento criminal defense attorney Mark Reichel told the New York Times. “One of them is that they have expertise above the regular person. The jury is entitled to hear your qualifications.”
Inauthentic qualifications by an expert witness not only undermines the criminal justice system, it opens the door for a conviction to be overturned. If that happens, some cases may be remanded for a new trial, while other defendants could be set free.
In an interview with the Times, Berkley Brannon, the chief deputy assistant district attorney for Monterey County, said his office would work to contact district attorneys about cases in which Reade testified if it could be proven that she did not earn a degree as she claimed under oath.
“That would absolutely be of concern to us, and it’s something that the defense attorneys would need to know about,” Brannon said. “We don’t want people that we call lying about anything.”