Devil’s in the de­tails

Sick specifics peg Moore as perv

New York Daily News - - NEWS -

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 emails, 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 45 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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