According to California court records, Tara Reade -- the woman who has accused former Vice President Joe Biden of sexually assaulting her 27 years ago -- was charged with misdemeanor check fraud just days before she left the then-Senator's office in the summer of 1993. The charge in question was filed on August 2, 1993, according to emails from an official working at the San Luis Obispo County court, obtained by Townhall (see updates). A document posted publicly by Ms. Reade indicates that she departed Biden's office four days later:
I am a former Joe Biden stafferIn 93 I tried to file a complaint against him for his sexual harassment & worse of me I was fired he destroyed my careerLast April I spoke up his campaign called me a Russian agent I am not. I lost work and was threatened.— taratweets ( Alexandra Tara Reade) (@ReadeAlexandra) March 16, 2020
My full account silenced. pic.twitter.com/7aItzSRB9D
There is no evidence that her departure from Biden's office was connected to the criminal charge, but the timing may raise questions about both the timeline of events, and Reade's credibility. This document provided to Townhall shows Reade's charge was eventually purged from the public record, pursuant to California law:
Note the the date of birth -- February 26, 1964 -- which matches the date listed as Reade's birthday in several online postings. The email chain with the court official reveals that the since-purged charge was a "476(a) a misdemeanor:"
This is how that crime is described in the California penal code:
476. Every person who makes, passes, utters, or publishes, with intent to defraud any other person, or who, with the like intent, attempts to pass, utter, or publish, or who has in his or her possession, with like intent to utter, pass, or publish, any fictitious or altered bill, note, or check, purporting to be the bill, note, or check, or other instrument in writing for the payment of money or property of any real or fictitious financial institution as defined in Section 186.9 is guilty of forgery.
It is unclear how the charge was ultimately adjudicated, or what the details of the case were. People charged with crimes are presumed innocent until proven guilty (see updates).
Analysis: I have written repeatedly that Reade deserves to be heard, but that her serious allegations merit serious scrutiny. She has provided some compelling contemporaneous evidence to bolster her claims, including the testimony of people who say she told them about the alleged assault in the early-to-mid 1990's. We've also seen the video of Reade's mother calling into Larry King Live in 1993 to describe a situation in which her daughter had experienced an unspecified issue with a 'prominent Senator' that she was unable to get addressed. A recently-revealed court document from 1996 also seems to verify that Reade had complained of sexual harassment in Biden's office. On the other hand, there are inconsistencies in Reade's story, especially regarding the nature of what allegedly happened to her, that cannot simply be ignored.
Is a decades-old, expunged check fraud charge relevant to the current controversy at all? The charge does not mean that she is being untruthful in her allegation against Biden. It does not vindicate Biden, or prove anything definitive about Reade, one way or another. But the timing of the charge is certainly interesting, and the charge itself is at least one piece of information upon which people can evaluate her credibility. One of my most vehement critiques of the media in their coverage of this story is the glaring double standards they've applied, particularly vis-a-vis their collective handling of the allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh two years ago. As a Kavanaugh defender, I shared information about the sordid legal history of Julie Swetnick, who falsely accused Kavanaugh of participating in a gang rape ring, prompting Senate Democrats to demand his withdrawal.
If Swetnick's record was relevant to her credibility in my mind under those circumstances, fairness requires me to weigh Reade's apparent legal record under the present circumstances. Similarly, if some 1990's California court documents are being cited as evidence fortifying at least part of Reade's story, other 1990's California court documents that may undermine her credibility are also relevant. In summary, I do not find Ms. Reade to be unhinged, and it is not at all clear to me that she is lying. There are strands of evidence that cut both in favor of and against her accusations, which should be examined with empathy and care -- but also with skepticism. I'll leave you with her full interview with journalist Megyn Kelly:
UPDATE - Left-wing writer Ryan Grim reports that Reade's attorney has confirmed the existence of the charge, saying that after Reade paid off what she owed, the charge was dropped.
UPDATE II - I just spoke with Reade's attorney, Douglas Wigdor. He told me that his client's departure from Biden's office "had nothing to do with her termination because she had already left the office, in July [of 1993]. She was paid through that date [August 6th]," as indicated in the document she tweeted. Reade has speculated that she was terminated as a form of retaliation against her internal complaints regarding mistreatment.
UPDATE III - My short response to an incoherence 'dirty tricks' hit piece.
UPDATE IV - Via my source, in an email exchange I've received and verified, the San Luis Obispo District Attorney's office states the following: "In San Luis Obispo County Municipal Court case number M000203979, Tara Reade (2-26-64) was charged with a misdemeanor violation of California Penal Code section 476a(a) for an incident that took place on or about August 8,1992. She was not arrested, but a letter notifying her that charges were filed was sent on or about July 30, 1993." The office has very few records of this old case, and cannot confirm how its final resolution (dismissal) came about. The 'dirty tricks' piece from Salon (mentioned in update III) is further invalidated, and I look forward to their retraction.