Election 2020 Politics

As her lawyer quits, Biden accuser Tara Reade’s credibility is challenged by lawyers whose clients she testified against as an expert witness

Roland Soltesz and law partner William V. Pernik said they will seek to overturn the conviction of their client, who they have not yet been able to contact as she serves a life sentence in prison after being convicted of arson in a trial in which Reade testified as a witness.

“I am going to subpoena every one of her academic records, so this thing is coming to court one way or another,” Soltesz said.

Pernik said he has been contacting appellate attorneys to try to overturn the conviction. “We didn’t look at it from a political angle, we looked at it from the angle of this is scandal that is going to hit our small county,” he said.

The review of the cases, which was first reported by the Monterey County Weekly, came as the attorney who had been representing Reade in her claim against Biden said Friday that his firm decided to no longer work with her as a client.

Douglas Wigdor had represented several other plaintiffs during the #MeToo era, including victims who said they were harassed by Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and film producer Harvey Weinstein.

“Our firm no longer represents Tara Reade,” Wigdor said in a statement Friday morning. He said that the decision was made Wednesday and that it “is by no means a reflection on whether then-Senator Biden sexually assaulted Ms. Reade.”

In the statement, Wigdor continued to defend Reade and did not offer an explanation for why his firm decided to stop representing her. Reade did not respond to a request for comment.

Wigdor, who has donated to President Trump but said his own political affiliation did not impact the cases he pursued, declined to comment beyond the statement. His firm has been representing her pro bono for two weeks.

“We also believe that to a large extent Ms. Reade has been subjected to a double standard in terms of the media coverage she has received,” he said. “Much of what has been written about Ms. Reade is not probative of whether then-Senator Biden sexually assaulted her, but rather is intended to victim-shame and attack her credibility on unrelated and irrelevant matters.

“We genuinely wish Ms. Reade well and hope that she, as a survivor, is treated fairly. We have and will continue to represent survivors regardless of their alleged predator’s status or politics.”

Reade said she was handing a gym bag to Biden in a corridor near the Senate office in 1993 when he pushed her against a wall and digitally penetrated her. In 2019, she said Biden had sexually harassed her; this spring she publicly leveled the assault accusation for the first time.

Her accusations have triggered several in-depth examinations of Biden’s office during that time period, as well as of Reade’s own background. Several stories examined testimony that she has given in recent years, in which she spoke under oath as an expert on domestic violence.

In a recent interview about her courtroom experience with the Monterey County Weekly, she described her work for prosecutors as a type of public service.

“It is an important community service for me,” she said. “It’s a way I channel the restorative justice piece, through helping other people. I explain cycles of abuse. I talk about the cycles of violence.”

She was repeatedly used by the district attorney in cases where victims of domestic violence had changed their stories, complicating the prosecution’s case. She would explain to the jury that such recantations were common given the emotional dynamics of dysfunctional relationships, suggesting that the initial stories of violence could still be credible even if the testimony at trial was contradictory.

That was the case in the December 2018 trial of two women accused of arson, in which Reade was brought to the stand by the prosecution to explain why a witness to the alleged events had changed his story from saying he had seen two women running from the scene to saying he had witnessed two men, according to Soltesz, the attorney for one of the women.

“She came in and did this whole song and dance about how he was a victim of domestic violence as well and why he would change his story,” Soltesz recalled. “He testified in court that it wasn’t these girls.”

Scott Erdbacher, the attorney for the second convicted defendant in the case, said he remembers Reade’s testimony as a pivotal part of the prosecution because she helped to explain why the primary witness to the crime had changed his story. The jury appeared to find his first version more persuasive when it convicted the women.

“I’m always concerned when an expert witness testifies falsely, and we are looking into filing a petition for habeas corpus,” Erdbacher said, describing a type of appeal that would challenge his client’s imprisonment.

Attempts to reach Monterey County prosecutors Friday were not successful.

It was during Reade’s expert testimony that she made the comments that have now triggered an attempt to review past cases.

While Reade told the court she had worked as a legislative assistant to Biden, she actually held the job of staff assistant, a more junior role, according to Senate records. And while her résumé, shared with the defense by the district attorney before she appeared in court, said she worked in Biden’s office from 1991 to 1994, records show she was there only eight months, from Dec. 2, 1992, until Aug. 6, 1993.

A spokeswoman for Antioch University said that, contrary to Reade’s claim, she did not graduate from the school, as first reported by CNN. The spokeswoman also said that Reade never worked as an “online visiting professor,” as she claimed on the résumé shared as part of the court proceedings.

In testimony that she gave in December 2018, she was asked if she was licensed to practice law in California, and she responded that she had not taken the bar exam.

But Reade herself published a blog in 2012 documenting her third attempt to pass the California bar exam. The blog was titled “California Bar Exam: Three Times A Charm.”

A spokesman from the Seattle University School of Law confirmed that Reade — whose legal name at the time was Alexandra T. McCabe — graduated with a JD degree in 2004. The university, citing federal privacy regulations, would not share more about her educational background. Current admission requirements indicate any law school students must have an undergraduate degree.

Reade said in December 2018 that she had testified more than 20 times, as an expert witness on domestic violence issues (although the next month, in a separate case, she testified the number was “at least 10”). She had earlier supplied The Post with a letter of recommendation written in 2010 by Elaine McCleaf, the deputy district attorney for Monterey County, who called her “a dedicated advocate for women’s rights in Monterey County for many years.”

“She has donated her time to appear in court to educate juries on the dynamics of domestic violence on numerous occasions,” she wrote. “Many Superior Court Judges have determined that Alexandra is an expert in the field of domestic violence based on her education, training, and experience.”

Pernik, the attorney now seeking an appellate review of Reade’s testimony, said she could find herself legally culpable for her statements. “She is just such a good liar and manipulator she convinced people,” Pernik said. “They kept bringing her in because she is really good with juries.”

Alice Crites and Beth Reinhard contributed to this report.

What we know about Tara Reade’s allegations against Joe Biden: See video at wapo.st/bidenallegations.

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