In a breathtaking story published today in Newsday, details of Hillary Clinton's involvement in a decades-old rape case in Arkansas comes under close scrutiny.
It is really worth reading the whole well-sourced article, but here is the upshot:
Two years into her career of making change and having Day One-readying experience, 27 year old Hillary Rodham was appointed a public defender in a rape case, and played out deep in the gray areas of morality by attacking the 12-year old victim's credibility. Though nobody involved in the case can recall a shred of evidence that the victim had any sort of history of making false claims, Hillary argued it as a centerpiece of her case anyway. And conveniently omitted this aspect of the case from her 2003 book, "Living History."
In 1975, Hillary Rodham, 27, was a court-appointed attorney for an indigent defendant accused of raping a 6th grader in Arkansas. She wrote about it in her 2003 book, "Living History," focusing on technical evidentiary aspects of the case she presented to the court. Not surprisingly, she omitted the damning parts.
The victim was 12 years old. An older man, Thomas Alfred Taylor, was accused of raping her in his car. The man requested a female public defender, which Hillary at first resisted. Once she took the case, however, her defense was aggressive.
In "Living History" and in the Newsday piece, we learn of the issues raised about blood and semen samples, standard criminal defense tactics. But Hillary left out a key piece of the defense.
Newsday explains the omission:
However, that account leaves out a significant aspect of her defense strategy - attempting to impugn the credibility of the victim, according to a Newsday examination of court and investigative files and interviews with witnesses, law enforcement officials and the victim.
Rodham, records show, questioned the sixth grader's honesty and claimed she had made false accusations in the past. She implied that the girl often fantasized and sought out "older men" like Taylor, according to a July 1975 affidavit signed "Hillary D. Rodham" in compact cursive.
A man Hillary owes $688,000 to this year says this is just "the best defense possible."
Here's one twist - the victim, now 46, had not realized Hillary Clinton was the defense attorney when Newsday caught up with her (her name was not Clinton then). The victim is not pushing this story - if anything, she is forgiving, even if she has only just become aware of the cynical Clinton attacks on her credibility.
The victim, now 46, told Newsday that she was raped by Taylor, denied that she wanted any relationship with him and blamed him for contributing to three decades of severe depression and other personal problems.
"It's not true, I never sought out older men - I was raped," the woman said in an interview in the fall. Newsday is withholding her name as the victim of a sex crime.
There are some interesting nuggets in the well-sourced piece, such as:
"Taylor was alleged to have raped this girl in a car right near a very busy highway - I told her [Rodham] it seems sort of improbable and she immediately agreed," said Baker, who remembered Rodham as "smart, capable and very focused."
And how about this:
But the record shows that Rodham was also intent on questioning the girl's credibility. That line of defense crystallized in a July 28, 1975, affidavit requesting the girl undergo a psychiatric examination at the university's clinic.
"I have been informed that the complainant is emotionally unstable with a tendency to seek out older men and to engage in fantasizing," wrote Rodham, without referring to the source of that allegation. "I have also been informed that she has in the past made false accusations about persons, claiming they had attacked her body."
Dale Gibson, the investigator, doesn't recall seeing evidence that the girl had fabricated previous attacks. The assistant prosecutor who handled much of the case for Mahlon Gibson died several years ago. The prosecutor's files on the case, which would have included such details, were destroyed more than decade ago when a flood swept through the county archives, Mahlon Gibson said. Those files also would have included the forensics evidence referenced in "Living History."
The victim was visibly stunned when handed the affidavit by a reporter this fall. "It kind of shocks me - it's not true," she said. "I never said anybody attacked my body before, never in my life."
Hillary Clinton never misses an opportunity to remind us of how much of a warrior she is on behalf of vulnerable children. Children vulnerable to the system. Vulnerable to the callousness of adults.
A 6th grader, Hillary? She "fantasized?" She "sought it out from older men?"
Hillary Clinton, saying shame on others.
UPDATE - To be more clear at what the gray area is here, officers of the court have a responsibility - an ethical responsibility - to adhere to principles of scrupulous honesty. When Hillary signed that affidavit, she was giving a sworn oath that she had knowledge and evidence that the 6th grader had a history of making false charges. That's what the affidavit says. But nobody, including the victim who has no axe to grind, believes this has any truth. That's the core of the Newsday story.
That is the difference between zealous defense and breaching ethical responsibility.
And every lawyer here knows it.