Under oath, Biden accuser Tara Reade cited Biden’s work for women; defense attorneys now question her other testimony

Tara Reade has often testified as an expert witness in domestic violence cases.

May 22, 2020, 3:09 PM

At least three times in the past two years, Tara Reade – the woman who now accuses Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of sexual assault – took the witness stand in a trial centered on domestic violence.

Each time, before a judge would allow her to describe the insidious cycles of domestic violence, she had to show she was qualified to testify in court as a so-called “expert witness.” And each time, she began her answer by citing two things: Biden’s past efforts to protect women from violence, and her time on his Senate staff in the early 1990s, when she now says the sexual assault took place.

“What’s your experience specifically with respect to domestic violence?” Monterey County Deputy District Attorney Robin Duffy asked Reade during a trial in California early last year, according to a transcript of the testimony.

“Well,” Reade responded, “I worked originally for former U.S. senator Joseph Biden as a legislative aide. He worked on the Violence Against Women Act.”

In the January 2019 testimony, Reade seemed to praise what Biden started as a U.S. senator, saying that “going way back to my former boss, Joe Biden,” there has been a “movement” to “take the onus off the victim” by encouraging neighbors or other associates of victims to report domestic violence to authorities.

She also cited Biden and the Violence Against Women Act during testimony in October last year, six months after she first publicly accused Biden of inappropriately touching her nearly two decades ago, limiting her complaints then to allegations he stroked her neck and twirled her curly hair between his fingers.

According to the transcripts obtained by ABC News, her appearances in court reflect someone who has dedicated much of her life to helping those brutalized by violent and abusive men. But the transcripts also reflect someone who – when under oath – touted Biden’s work for women.

PHOTO: Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the Coronavirus and the response to it at the Hotel Du Pont in Wilmington, DE.
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks about the Coronavirus and the response to it at the Hotel Du Pont in Wilmington, DE.
Michael Brochstein/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

In addition, defense attorneys are reportedly now trying to determine if the transcripts show she provided false testimony about her credentials. On Friday, as questions over Reade's credentials mounted, the New York-based attorney who has been representing her for two weeks, Doug Wigdor, announced that he has decided to stop representing her.

Before a judge allowed Reade to testify in a December 2018 trial – involving the less common case of two women accused of domestic violence – Duffy, the prosecutor, asked Reade to describe her past education.

“I have a law degree from Seattle University,” Reade noted, testifying under the name Alexandra McCabe, which she assumed after escaping from her allegedly abusive ex-husband in 1997.

“And what about undergraduate?” Duffy inquired.

“A B.A. from Antioch University,” Reade replied, referring to the bachelor of arts degree bestowed on those who graduate from the Seattle school.

After then hearing about Reade’s “20-year career,” including her time in state government as “a victim advocate” and her legal work for local agencies representing battered women, the judge ruled that Reade could testify as an expert witness in the case.

“I do find at this time that this witness does meet the educational background and training requirements to testify as an expert in the dynamics of domestic violence relationships,” the Monterey County judge said of Reade.

A month later, in her January 2019 testimony, Reade similarly testified that she received an undergraduate degree from Antioch University.

But, according to Antioch University officials, some of what Reade told the judges was not true.

"Alexandra McCabe attended but did not graduate from Antioch University,” the school’s spokeswoman, Karen Hamilton, said in a statement to ABC News.

In fact, according to one source familiar with the matter, Reade attended the equivalent of just one year of school at Antioch University in 2000 – a fraction of what’s usually required to earn a degree.

The next year, Reade was accepted into Seattle University School of Law through the school’s Alternative Admission Program, which provides “a pathway for individuals from historically disadvantaged and under-represented communities” to attend law school, an official from the school recently told CNN, which first reported on questions about her undergraduate schooling.

Reade received her law degree in 2004.

After questions about her testimony surfaced, Reade provided the New York Times with a screenshot of a school transcript from Antioch University, which showed her department as “BA Completion” but left blank the “date conferred” and “degree conferred.” She told the Times that, to help protect her new identity from her allegedly abusive ex-husband, the school’s then-president, Tullise Murdock, helped secretly bestow a “fast-tracked” degree upon her.

But Hamilton, the Antioch spokeswoman, told the Times that Murdock denied any such arrangement.

If proven false, Reade’s claims – under oath – could amount to a crime.

In several press releases announcing convictions over the years, prosecutors have repeatedly described Reade’s testimony as “critical” to their cases. The district attorney’s office is now reviewing the matter, and defense lawyers from many of trials are now looking to reopen their clients’ cases, according to the New York Times.

A ‘legislative aide’ to Biden?

The details of Reade’s education may not have been her only overstatements while testifying in court – she repeatedly testified that she was a “legislative assistant” in Biden’s office.

In her October 2019 testimony seven months ago, she even suggested she was involved in moving Biden’s key legislation along.

“On the Violence Against Women Act, I was a legislative assistant and did research in that office,” she said, according to a transcript of her testimony.

PHOTO:  In this April 4, 2019, photo Tara Reade poses for a photo during an interview with The Associated Press in Nevada City, Calif.
In this April 4, 2019, photo Tara Reade poses for a photo during an interview with The Associated Press in Nevada City, Calif.
Donald Thompson/AP Photo

In January 2019, she testified that she worked for Biden “as a legislative aide” – the same title she used to describe her position in at least four personal essays posted online.

“When you work as a legislative aide, you research the overarching issue of what the policy is or the law is they're trying to enact,” she said in court. “So I was reading and studying before and going to hearings and things like that.”

But, in fact, government records show Reade was a “staff assistant” on Biden’s team – a lower position than a “legislative aide.”

Reade seemed to acknowledge the difference in a podcast interview two months ago, when she said she “worked for legislative aides” on Biden’s staff.

“Pretty low on the totem pole,” she said of her position at the time. “I was working with the interns. So I supervised the intern program, and made sure all the mail was distributed where it was supposed to [be].”

When assisting legislative aides, she “would help go to a hearing and take notes, or write something,” she added.

The Biden allegations

Reade is now accusing Biden of sexual assault during her time in his office, allegations that Biden and his closest advisers from the time have vehemently denied.

According to Reade, in 1993 Biden pinned her against a wall in a Capitol Hill hallway, slipped his hand into her skirt, and then digitally penetrated her.

The explosive allegation goes much further than when she first publicly lodged allegations against Biden last year. In an April 2019 interview with her local newspaper, she accused Biden of inappropriately touching her neck and shoulder when she worked for him.

The allegations last year went further themselves than previously-documented claims.

In recent interviews, Reade has said that while still working for Biden, she formally filed a sexual harassment complaint with a Senate office, but that has yet to be corroborated.

Biden has said the events described by Reade "never happened."

"[Women] deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and when they step forward they should be heard, not silences," he said in a recent statement.

Still, "the full and growing record of inconsistencies in her story" should be examined, he said.

In her March podcast interview, Reade said that acting as an expert witness in Monterey County courts is part of “how I channel [the] rampage or energy” that has grown inside her through years of abuse.

“I have spent most of my life hiding from powerful men, be it my abusive ex-husband later, or Joe Biden,” Reade said, her voice cracking with emotion. “I am now at the point where just I’m done.”

In announcing his decision on Friday to stop representing Reade, Wigdor said in a statement that the decision, made Wednesday, "is by no means a reflection of whether then-Senator Biden sexually assaulted Ms. Reade."

ABC News' Matt Mosk and Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

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