Dueling defamation suits: Woman testifies against Roy Moore
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A woman who accused failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of molesting her decades ago when she was 14 testified Tuesday that Moore “knows that it happened” despite his public denials.
Leigh Corfman took the witness stand in a trial dealing with dueling defamation lawsuits that she and Moore filed against each other in the wake of a sexual misconduct allegation that rocked the 2017 U.S. Senate race in Alabama.
Corfman testified about meeting Moore in 1979 when she was 14 and how he touched her after bringing her to his home. At one point Corfman stared from the witness stand at Moore, who stared back at her. “It did happen, and he knows that it happened,” Corfman said. She said his denials damaged her reputation.
“He has done everything possible to damage my veracity, the truth of my words, the statements I have made about his sexual molestation of me at 14. He knows just as well as I do that he was there,” Corfman testified.
The allegations overshadowed the conservative Republican during the 2017 campaign as Moore ultimately fell in a stunning red state defeat to Doug Jones, the first Alabama Democrat elected to the Senate in 25 years. Republican Tommy Tuberville defeated Jones in the next election.
Corfman testified that she decided to tell her story in 2017 when approached by a reporter from The Washington Post.
Attempting to link the accusation to political motivations, Moore’s attorney Melissa Isaak, questioned Corfman during cross-examination on whether she hoped Moore would lose the 2017 election. Isaak also asked Corfman if she objected to her photo being used on anti-Moore campaign materials.
“Well, I didn’t want to see my predator sitting in the Senate,” Corfman responded. Corfman conceded that Moore didn’t use the word liar to describe her but said he used words to the same effect.
During opening statements, lawyers gave divergent views of Corfman and Moore and what happened in 1979. Lawyers for Moore told jurors that he doesn’t know Corfman, whom they described as being motivated by politics and a desire to be in the limelight.
Julian McPhillips, an attorney representing Moore, told jurors that Moore had never even seen Corfman until they were in the same room for jury selection.
“Judge Moore dared to prove his innocence. He dared to deny he even knew her,” McPhillips said.
He suggested Corfman’s accusations were brought to keep Moore from winning the 2017 Senate race.
“The political motivation should be clear, why else would she do it?” McPhillips said.
Melody Eagan, an attorney representing Corfman, told jurors earlier that you have to decide who you believe.” She said Moore victimized Corfman twice: once in 1979 when he sexually touched her in his home when she was 14 and decades later in 2017 when he “defamed her by dragging her name through the mud.”
Eagan said Corfman met Moore in 1979 when she was 14 and sitting with her mother outside an Etowah County courtroom for a custody hearing and Moore, an assistant district attorney at the time, offered to sit with her. After getting her telephone number, Moore brought her to his home on two occasions, kissing her and taking off her clothes, Eagan said. “He touched Leigh over her bra. And he touched Leigh over her panties …. She was terrified,” Eagan said.
Moore’s attorneys tried to put Corfman’s character on trial, calling her vindictive, attempting to question her about drug and alcohol use as a teen and adult and questioning a decision by her mother, Nancy Wells, to let her daughter read Harlequin romance novels as a young teen.
Wells, the first witness, she said she had no doubt that it was Moore who approached her and her daughter at the courthouse in 1979. She said it was years later, when Corfman was an adult, that Corfman told her about what Moore had done.
One of Corfman’s attorneys asked Wells if she had any personal knowledge of misconduct by Moore, who rose to prominence in state politics after hanging a Ten Commandments plaque on a courtroom wall. Moore was twice elected and removed as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.
“I just have what my daughter told me,” Wells replied.
It’s unclear how long the trial might last. While Corfman is seeking only a ruling that Moore defamed her, McPhillips said Moore is seeking monetary compensation.