A jury on Wednesday declared something akin to a legal stalemate between former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and a woman who accused the powerful Republican of molesting her when she was 14 and he was 32. The cases — a pair of dueling defamation lawsuits — resulted in no win for either side.
“It is our verdict that neither party recover from the other,” jurors wrote in a verdict form read aloud in an Alabama state courtroom on Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.
The woman, Leigh Corfman, did not publicly levy her accusations against Moore until she was contacted by a Washington Post reporter as Moore was running for a U.S. Senate seat. The Post published Corfman’s account in November 2017 — long after the alleged molestation was said by Corfman to have occurred in 1979 but just weeks before the election.
Corfman claimed Moore, who was a prosecutor at the time, approached her and her mother while the two were waiting on a park bench for a custody hearing to begin in an adjacent courthouse. Moore allegedly offered to watch Corfman while her mother attended the hearing so as to prevent Corfman from having to endure any difficult or acrimonious details. Moore then is said to have asked Corfman for her phone number. According to the Post’s original report:
Days later, she says, he picked her up around the corner from her house in Gadsden, drove her about 30 minutes to his home in the woods, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On a second visit, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.
The Post also spoke to Corfman’s mother and childhood friends. Her mother corroborated portions of the story and said Corfman told her additional details about the alleged encounters as Moore rose through the ranks to become a local judge; Corfman’s friends told the newspaper they recalled Corfman seeing an older man.
The published pre-election allegations resulted in predictable fallout and double claims of defamation. Corfman sued Moore for calling her a liar; Moore counterclaimed that Corfman had lied about him. The cases were combined into a single proceeding.
The jury declared that neither side had proven its case that the other side had lied. Both opponents reportedly saw the verdict as some form of victory.
“I do not have anything to apologize for and I did not do anything wrong,” Moore reportedly said after court.
Corfman’s attorney’s noted that Moore failed to win his counterclaim, according to the AP.
Moore had sought money damages against Corfman. Corfman, however, did not seek money damages from Moore; she merely asked for a de facto declaration that she was telling the truth, AL.com reported.
Moore has long claimed that Corfman’s explosive accusations were designed to scuttle his reputation among voters. Moore lost to Doug Jones, a Democrat who was the first to win a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama in more than two decades. Jones was subsequently ejected by the voters and replaced by Republican Tommy Tuberville.
According to The Associated Press, an attorney for Corfman said during closing arguments that the case required jurors to ascertain who the real liar was.
“Who do you believe?” attorney Jeff Doss asked during closing arguments. “Do you believe Leigh Corfman or do you believe Roy Moore?”
Julian McPhillips, an attorney for Moore, said Corfman’s accusations “put Mr. Moore and his family through holy hell” in the final weeks of the 2017 election — an allegation with religious undertones perhaps designed to match the explicit religious allegories Moore has long employed in matters of public debate. “She couldn’t have hurt Roy Moore more if she had shot him with a gun, shot him through the heart.”
“Your verdict will send a powerful message to Roy Moore that the truth still matters,” Doss countered, again according to the AP.
In the end, no such verdict was returned.
Moore testified that Corfman’s accusations were false; he also said he did not know Corfman. McPhillips said Corfman’s charges were a “big, fat lie,” according to an account by AL.com, a website operated by a collection of newspapers in the Yellowhammer State. McPhillips further argued that the accusations would have “come out . . . long before 32 days before an election” if they were indeed true.
Similar to their assertions in the Washington Post, Corfman’s friends testified that Corfman claimed to be seeing an older man; one friend even said Corfman had named Moore as the man she was seeing. Corfman’s mother and an attorney both testified that they saw Moore outside the relevant 1979 hearing, but the attorney, Charles Boyd, testified when pressed that he might have been confused about the year the hearing occurred, the AP further noted.
AL.com explained the relevant testimony in detail. Moore’s counsel attempted to exploit confusion about specific dates, specific lawyers, specific cases, and specific judicial officials to impeach the Corfman-affiliated witnesses; Boyd reportedly testified that any discrepancies did “not change what [he] saw” viz. Corfman and Moore outside the courthouse.
Other women said they dated Moore when they were teens. One “testified that Moore called her high school when she was in trigonometry class after meeting her at the mall,” the AP said. Moore’s attorneys reportedly riposted that it wasn’t “a crime to date people.”
McPhillips even claimed the accusations against Moore were mere “child’s play” compared to those lodged against who the AP referred to as “two former presidents.” The attorney reportedly did not name the politicians referenced.
Moore attempted to run for senate again in 2020. He lost the Republican primary that time around.
The jury was asked to decide who should prevail in the litigation and, as noted, decided that neither side should. AL.com ultimately interpreted the verdict as a pronouncement that neither side defamed the other.
[Image via Jessica McGowan/Getty Images]
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