Q: Did Hillary Clinton volunteer in 1975 to defend a rapist, who was found not guilty, and laugh about it in an interview in 1980?
A: Clinton defended an accused rapist, but she did not volunteer. He pleaded guilty to a lesser offense. She laughed when recalling unusual aspects of the case.
Did Hillary Clinton volunteer to defend a child rapist in 1975, accuse the 12-year-old victim of fantasizing about older men, later state that she knew he was guilty but got the charges dropped and laugh?
In 1975, Hillary Clinton — then known as Hillary Rodham — taught at the University of Arkansas School of Law, where she founded the University of Arkansas School Legal Aid Clinic. It was during this time that she defended Thomas Alfred Taylor, a 41-year-old man accused of raping a 12-year-old girl.
In her book “Living History,” Clinton recalls that Mahlon Gibson, a Washington County prosecutor, told her that the accused rapist “wanted a woman lawyer” to defend him, and that Gibson had recommended Clinton to Judge Maupin Cummings. “I told Mahlon I really didn’t feel comfortable taking on such a client, but Mahlon gently reminded me that I couldn’t very well refuse the judge’s request.”
Gibson corroborated Clinton’s story in a 2014 interview with CNN.
CNN, June 25, 2014: Gibson said Clinton called him shortly after the judge assigned her to the case and said, “I don’t want to represent this guy. I just can’t stand this. I don’t want to get involved. Can you get me off?”
“I told her, ‘Well contact the judge and see what he says about it,’ but I also said don’t jump on him and make him mad,” Gibson said. “She contacted the judge and the judge didn’t remove her and she stayed on the case.”
In a separate 2014 interview, Clinton said she had an “obligation” to represent Taylor. “I had a professional duty to represent my client to the best of my ability, which I did,” she said.
In her book, Clinton writes that she visited Taylor in the county jail and he “denied the charges against him and insisted that the girl, a distant relative, had made up her story.” Clinton filed a motion to order the 12-year-old girl to get a psychiatric examination. “I have been informed that the complainant is emotionally unstable with a tendency to seek out older men and engage in fantasizing … [and] that she has in the past made false accusations about persons, claiming they had attacked her body,” according to an affidavit filed by Clinton in support of her motion.
Clinton also cited an expert in child psychology who said that “children in early adolescence tend to exaggerate or romanticize sexual experiences and that adolescents with disorganized families, such as the complainant’s, are even more prone to such behavior,” Clinton wrote in her affidavit.
Ultimately, expert testimony from a scientist “cast doubt on the evidentiary value of the blood and semen the prosecutor claimed proved the defendant’s guilt in the rape,” Clinton writes in her book. Clinton negotiated a plea deal and Taylor was charged with “Unlawful Fondling of a Child Under the Age of Fourteen” and was sentenced to one year in a county jail and four years of probation, according to a final judgment signed by Cummings.
In 2014, the Washington Free Beacon published the audio of an interview that Arkansas reporter Roy Reed conducted with Clinton in the 1980s. In the interview, Clinton recalls some unusual details of the rape case, and she can be heard laughing in three instances, beginning with a joke she makes about the accuracy of polygraphs.
Clinton: Of course he claimed he didn’t. All this stuff. He took a lie detector test. I had him take a polygraph, which he passed, which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs. [laughs]
At another point, Clinton said the prosecutor balked at turning over evidence, forcing her to go to the judge to obtain it.
Clinton: So I got an order to see the evidence and the prosecutor didn’t want me to see the evidence. I had to go to Maupin Cummings and convince Maupin that yes indeed I had a right to see the evidence [laughs] before it was presented.
Clinton then said that the evidence she obtained was a pair of the accused’s underwear with a hole in it. Clinton told Reed that investigators had cut out a piece of the underwear and sent the sample to a crime lab to be tested, and the only evidence that remained was the underwear with a hole in it.
Clinton took the remaining evidence to a forensic expert in Brooklyn, New York, and the expert told her that the material on the underwear wasn’t enough to test. “He said, you know, ‘You can’t prove anything,’” Clinton recalled the expert telling her.
Clinton: I wrote all that stuff and I handed it to Mahlon Gibson, and I said, “Well this guy’s ready to come up from New York to prevent this miscarriage of justice.” [laughs]
The emails we have received about this case contain some misinformation. Some have claimed, for example, that Clinton volunteered for the case and the accused rapist was found not guilty. That’s not accurate, as we just explained. But Clinton did laugh in the retelling of some unusual aspects of the rape case, and we leave it to others to decide whether her laughter was appropriate or not.