Why I’m skeptical about Reade’s sexual assault claim against Biden: Ex-prosecutor. If we must blindly accept every allegation of sexual assault, the #MeToo movement is just a hit squad. And it’s too important to be no more than that.
Michael J. Stern, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, was a federal prosecutor for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles.
During 28 years as a state and federal prosecutor, I prosecuted a lot of sexual assault cases. The vast majority came early in my career, when I was a young attorney at a prosecutor’s office outside Detroit.
A year ago, Tara Reade accused former Vice President Joe Biden of touching her shoulder and neck in a way that made her uncomfortable, when she worked for him as a staff assistant in 1993. Then last month, Reade told an interviewer that Biden stuck his hand under her skirt and forcibly penetrated her with his fingers. Biden denies the allegation.
When women make allegations of sexual assault, my default response is to believe them. But as the news media have investigated Reade’s allegations, I’ve become increasingly skeptical. Here are some of the reasons why:
Missing formal complaint. Reade told The Times she filed a written complaint against Biden with the Senate personnel office. But The Times could not find any complaint. When The Times asked Reade for a copy of the complaint, she said she did not have it. Yet she maintained and provided a copy of her 1993 Senate employment records.
Memory lapse. Reade has said that she cannot remember the date, time or exact location of the alleged assault, except that it occurred in a “semiprivate” area in corridors connecting Senate buildings. After I left the Justice Department, I was appointed by the federal court in Los Angeles to represent indigent defendants. The first thing that comes to mind from my defense attorney perspective is that Reade’s amnesia about specifics makes it impossible for Biden to go through records and prove he could not have committed the assault, because he was somewhere else at the time.
For instance, if Reade alleged Biden assaulted her on the afternoon of June 3, 1993, Biden might be able to prove he was on the Senate floor or at the dentist. Her memory lapses could easily be perceived as bulletproofing a false allegation
It is odd that Reade kept a copy of her employment records but did not keep a copy of a complaint documenting criminal conduct by a man whose improprieties changed “the trajectory” of her life. It’s equally odd The Times was unable to find a copy of the alleged Senate complaint.
For several other reasons for skepticism, check out Stern’s full op-ed.