Before the second debate, Donald Trump held a brief news conference with three women who claim they were abused by Bill Clinton – and one woman, Kathy Shelton, who says Hillary Clinton ruined her life when she was appointed by the court to defend the man who raped Shelton in 1975.
While the cases of three women connected to Bill Clinton have been well-litigated in the media, the Kathy Shelton case has attracted much less attention. Until a Newsday reporter informed her in 2007 that Clinton was the lawyer in the case, Shelton had no idea that Hillary Clinton had been involved.
Moreover, a central part of her story — the psychiatric exam — does not appear to have taken place, according to court records.
In 1975, Clinton — then Hillary Rodham — was a 27-year-old law instructor running a legal aid clinic at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. After a 41-year-old factory worker was accused of raping a 12-year-old girl, he asked the judge to replace his court-appointed male attorney with a female one. The judge went through the list of a half-dozen women practicing law in the county and picked Clinton. She has said she was not thrilled with the assignment but felt she had little choice but to take the court appointment — which the prosecutor in the case confirmed to CNN.
Court records describe a sad tale. Shelton, at the time 12 years old, went out for a late-night drive with Tom Taylor, then 41, a 20-year-old cousin, and a 15-year-old boy with whom she was apparently infatuated. They bought a pint of Old Grand-Dad whisky, which was mixed with Coca-Cola for Shelton. After hanging out at a bowling alley for a few hours, they allegedly drove to a ravine where the two older men left Shelton and the 15-year-old together. The two then had sex, the boy told police. After they were finished, Taylor approached the truck and apparently attacked Shelton. The boy reported that Shelton screamed and he saw Taylor hitching up his pants.
As part of her handling of the case, Clinton filed an affidavit July 28, 1975, requesting that the girl go through a psychiatric examination. “I have been informed that the complainant is emotionally unstable with a tendency to seek out older men and to engage in fantasizing,” Clinton said. “I have also been informed that she has in the past made false accusations about persons, claiming they had attacked her body. Also that she exhibits an unusual stubbornness and temper when she does not get her way.”
Clinton offered no source for the claims.
When Glenn Thrush, then a reporter for Newsday, showed the affidavit to Shelton in 2007, he wrote that she was visibly stunned. “It kind of shocks me – it’s not true,” she said. “I never said anybody attacked my body before, never in my life.”
But Shelton told Thrush at the time that she bore no ill will toward Clinton. “I have to understand that she was representing Taylor,” she said. “I’m sure Hillary was just doing her job.”
But in 2014, Shelton told the Daily Beast that she had been misquoted. “Hillary Clinton took me through hell,” she said.
Shelton’s ire had risen with the 2014 discovery of previously unpublished audio recordings of Clinton discussing the case in the mid-1980s with Arkansas reporter Roy Reed for an article that was never published.
In the recorded interview, Clinton is heard laughing or giggling four times when discussing the case with unusual candor; the reporter is also heard laughing, and sometimes Clinton is responding to him.
For instance, Clinton laughed after she said: “Of course he [the defendant] claimed he didn’t [rape]. 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.”
[Update: Reed in an interview published Oct. 12 denied that Clinton was laughing at Shelton. “As far as her laughing, God knows she was not laughing over the notion that this rapist was going to go free," said Reed. “I challenge any fair-minded reader of that transcript to make a case that Hillary Rodham was a coldblooded lawyer who was laughing over the plight of the 12-year-old rape victim."]
The Daily Beast article said:
The victim was put through several forensic procedures, including a lie detector test. At first, she failed the lie detector test; she said that was because she didn’t understand one of the specific sex-related questions. Once that question was explained to her, she passed, she said. The victim positively identified her two attackers through one-way glass and they were arrested.
In an interview with the Daily Mail that appeared Aug. 9, Shelton agreed for the first time to be identified by name. This article strongly suggested that what it described as “a grueling court-ordered psychiatric examination” took place:
Although Clinton’s legal maneuver would likely be prohibited today under Arkansas rape shield act, the law was not passed until two years after the case.
Shelton said one of her worst memories of the case was being questioned repeatedly by appointed experts.
“It got so bad that I told my mom I wasn’t going back, and whatever happened, happened,” said Shelton. “It’s sad that a 12-year-old had to go through what I had to go through, because for days I cried and cried and cried over it.”
The gofundme site, which was established Aug. 13 and seeks to raise $10,000, quotes Shelton as explicitly saying that the test took place: “Hillary then began to attack my character, forcing me to undergo multiple polygraph tests where I was asked explicit sexual questions I didn’t even understand. Next I was sent for a psychiatric examination. It felt like I was the one on trial.”
But the court docket, unearthed by Pittsburgh attorney Norma Chase and for the first time made public, shows that one day after Clinton filed a request for psychiatric exam, it was denied by the judge. The court docket for July 28 says Clinton filed her motion for an exam. On July 29, it states: “Hearing on Motion for Psychiatric Examination — Motion denied. Defendant objects.” (There is also no evidence that Clinton was responsible for arranging Shelton’s polygraph test.)
As a court-appointed defense lawyer, Clinton was required to look out for her client’s interests. The prosecutor was supposed to look out for Shelton’s interests. The judge in the case was to hear the facts and decide what could be permitted. In this case, he rejected Clinton’s request.
For a variety of reasons, a plea agreement to a reduced charge was reached. Investigators mishandled evidence of Taylor’s bloody underwear, cutting out the stain that contained semen for testing and then losing it. Newsday also quoted a retired detective on the case as saying that Shelton’s “ ‘infatuation’ with the teenage boy, which she refused to admit,” led to “serious inconsistencies in her statements about the incident.” The detective also said Shelton’s mother “was so eager to end the ordeal she coached her daughter’s statements and interrupted interviews with police.”
Shelton did not respond to requests for comment left on her phone and the gofundme site. We also sought comment from Candice E. Jackson, an attorney who represents her.
Update: After this column appeared, Shelton’s gofundme site was substantially revised, with all references to an alleged psychiatric exam and the polygraph test removed. A screen grab of the original page is below:
Update, Oct. 15: The gofundme site keeps getting changed. Notably, the story that Shelton told on the Sean Hannity show on Oct. 13 is different than Shelton’s original account on the gofundme site: “On May 10, 1975, in Springdale, Arkansas, two men lured me into their truck with the promise of a soda. I knew them and trusted them.” Now to conform with her interview on Hannity, it says: “On May 10, 1975, in Springdale Arkansas two men, one around age 40 and the other in his teens, yanked me off my bicycle as I was riding to church.” She also told Hannity that she spent five days in a coma, but court records show that four days after the rape, which took place at 4 a.m., an investigator signed a report on his conversation with Shelton.
The Bottom Line
Memories are malleable over time. The record shows that Shelton’s memories of the case have changed, specifically concerning being forced to take a psychiatric exam that, it turns out, was not approved by the court. Shelton did not know about Clinton’s affidavit asking for the exam in the 41-year-old case until it was shown to her by a reporter nine years ago. There is little indication that the outcome of the case would have been much different, no matter the defense attorney, given the mishandling of the evidence and Shelton’s difficulties as a witness. Yet now the exam has become a key part of her story in order to raise funds.
Shelton is a rape victim and until recently has not been in the public eye. However, she chose to appear at Trump’s news conference, and Trump has begun to highlight her story in campaign speeches. We’re not going to assign a Pinocchio rating, but readers should be aware of the facts of her case — and how her account has changed over time.
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