2020 elections

Defense lawyers look to reopen cases where Tara Reade testified as an expert

Reade stated under oath she had an undergraduate degree that her college said she never earned and appears to have exaggerated her role in Joe Biden’s office.

Tara Reade

Under the name Alexandra McCabe, Tara Reade has for years testified for the prosecution as an expert in domestic violence cases.

But a number of California defense attorneys are considering challenging the convictions of their clients amid questions about whether Reade misrepresented her credentials under oath.

Reade, the former Joe Biden staffer who recently accused him of sexually assaulting her in 1993, stated she had an undergraduate degree that her college says she never earned and appears to have exaggerated her role in then-Delaware Sen. Biden’s office, according to trial transcripts in two court cases reviewed by POLITICO.

Six cases involving Reade’s testimony are already under review by the 6th District Appellate Program, Executive Director Patrick McKenna told POLITICO Thursday. The state-funded office oversees appointed defense counsel in appellate cases covering four California counties, including Monterey County, where the prosecution often tapped Reade as an expert witness.

The review will determine whether the attorneys can petition a judge to review their clients’ conviction, and potentially order a new trial.

“I have at least six cases where she testified and I have lists pending from various attorney groups where she testified as a violence expert. I expect that list will expand significantly,” McKenna said. “We’re trying to get the lists together. We’re aware of Ms. Reade, we’re in the mode of trying to review the transcripts to see if she misrepresented herself in court.”

He said the calls for a review came as news reports raised questions about her background and detailed her credentials, including the fact that she did not complete an undergraduate degree.

“Last week, I was informed she testified as an expert. Last week, I was also informed she lied about her credentials. I didn’t connect the dots on the significance of those two things until yesterday when I was contacted by an attorney,” McKenna said.

The concerns about Reade’s testimony come after she leveled sexual assault charges against Biden in March. In 2019, Reade at first alleged sexual harassment, but she has since explained that she wasn’t yet ready to tell the full story — an experience Reade and her attorney argue is common with victims of abuse.

Reade has written and talked extensively about her own experience as a victim of domestic violence. In 1996, a judge in San Luis Obispo Superior Court authorized a temporary restraining order against Reade’s then-husband. Her former husband has denied her claims.

An attorney for Jennifer Vasquez, a woman convicted of attempted murder, said he is currently reviewing options for his client in the wake of recent revelations about Reade.

In that December 2018 case, Reade gave an account of her educational background that conflicts with the account of university officials. When asked to detail her credentials as an expert in domestic violence in the case, Reade testified that she had a law degree from Seattle University and graduated from Antioch University in Seattle with a bachelor’s degree.

Karen Hamilton, a spokeswoman for Antioch University, said in a statement that Reade did not graduate and was never a faculty member. Reade attended Antioch for three academic quarters, in 2000 and part of 2001, the university said.

Reade declined to comment for this story and instead texted a screenshot from a previously published article where she claimed she obtained an undergraduate degree under a special arrangement with a former chancellor of the university, Toni Murdock. CNN first reported on questions regarding Reade’s educational background.

However, university officials conferred with Murdock, an Antioch official told POLITICO, and confirmed that no special arrangement existed.

Seattle University School of Law confirmed that Reade graduated from there in 2004. According to a 2009 article in the law school’s alumni magazine, Reade entered law school under an alternative admission program.

In a follow-up question about whether students in that program can be admitted without a bachelor’s degree, a spokesman pointed to current requirements, which require an undergraduate degree.

“Our current admission requirements are publicly posted on the Seattle University School of Law website, which apply to all admitted students,” David Sandler said. “As in the past, they are consistent with American Bar Association standards for law schools. Federal privacy regulations prevent us from sharing additional information about the educational records of former students.”

Reade also appears to have embellished her role in Biden’s office. Reade served in his Senate office from December 1992 to July 1993 as a staff assistant, a relatively junior position. Reade has said she managed interns for a time. But when queried about her job experience at the trial, Reade referred to herself as a legislative assistant, a more senior job classification that conveyed more responsibility, according to the transcript.

“I worked with domestic violence prevention for over 20-some years in different capacities. I started working for U.S. Senator Joseph Biden. I was a legislative assistant. He worked on the Violence Against Women Act, the federal act,” Reade testified.

She was later asked whether her degree from Antioch University was in political science.

“Liberal arts, yeah,” Reade responded.

“But your résumé says liberal,” the attorney followed up.

“Yeah. The focus was political science. I worked for Leon Panetta and Joe Biden and then moved on to King County prosecutor's office,” she said.

In response to a question from the lawyer about whether she was being compensated, Reade said she was paid a stipend and provided with a hotel room.

Vasquez’s attorney, Scott Erdbacher — who directed questioning and whose objection to her as an expert witness was overruled by the judge overseeing the case — said he is revisiting the issue.

“We’re just looking at it to see if there is a reason to reopen it,” Erdbacher told POLITICO. “ I’m sure that anybody who had her on a case will be looking into it very closely. Her testimony in cases, especially if her credibility is a problem, those are all things we would have asked her at trial that would have influenced the outcome.”

Prior to her testimony in the Vasquez case, defense attorneys were given Reade’s résumé, a copy of which was provided to POLITICO.

The résumé cites a B.A. from Antioch, as well as separate work for the university.

“Ongoing Online Visiting Professor since 2007 for various Student BA packet reviews: Review the final papers with students via phone and email; provide guidance for final BA,” reads one line from her résumé.

A university official confirmed that Reade was not a faculty member, though she did several hours of administrative work as an independent contractor over 2008-10.

Reade testified in at least two cases for the Monterey County district attorney’s office as recently as last year. In a January 2019 news release, the prosecutor’s office specifically touted Reade’s testimony as pivotal to the conviction.

“Tara McCabe, a domestic violence expert, provided critical testimony which aided the jury’s understanding as to why victims of domestic violence recant, minimize, and frequently stay in abusive relationships,” the office said.

The prosecutor’s office did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Reade’s attorney.

Reade has long described herself as a domestic violence survivor and victims’ advocate, citing past work with domestic violence survivors, including as a volunteer for a time in King County, Wash. A spokeswoman with the King County prosecutor’s office confirmed that someone named Alexandra McCabe was employed as a victim advocate from Aug. 1999 through October 2000.