Mark Tapscott and Byron York are having a sort of mini-debate in the Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog over the credibility of the sex assault accusations against Al Gore, a mini-debate to which I’d like to add my two cents.
Mark Tapscott says the “extremely clinical, detailed manner” of the accusations could be an indication that the accuser is “trying to create an impression of accuracy.”
He also questions the level of detail because “Let’s not forget that three years went by between the alleged encounter and the composition of the report.”
Byron York responds, in part, that
I don’t think three years elapsed between the encounter and the composition of the accuser’s version of the story. The incident allegedly occurred on October 24, 2006. The Portland Police Bureau statement on the matter says that about two months later, in December 2006, a local attorney got in touch with police and “said he had a client that wanted to report an unwanted sexual contact by Mr. Gore.” The police statement says investigators tried repeatedly to interview the woman, but she did not cooperate. A short time later, in January 2007, the lawyer told them his client was “pursuing civil litigation.” Then, in January 2009, she changed her mind and talked to police investigators.
The woman’s attorney — so far unnamed — would have been negligent had he not had his client record her best memory of the incident, in as much detail as possible, as quickly as possible. I think that likely happened sometime before the lawyer first contacted police in December 2006. The statement the woman gave police in January 2009 — investigators say she was reading from a prepared statement, which is obvious from listening to the audio recording — would have been based on recollections written down earlier. Time is the enemy of detail, but the details were likely committed to paper shortly after the alleged incident occurred, not three years later.
Mark then added a brief response at the end of Mark’s original comment.
My two cents: While I agree completely with Mark that excessive detail can be a sign of dissembling, Byron is correct that a competent attorney would have gotten his client’s full story in detail very early in the process and kept detailed notes.
Further, a competent attorney would be aware that his client puts herself at risk of prosecution if anything she tells law enforcement or testifies to as part of a civil proceeding at one point in time differs from something she says at another point in time, even if the core of her accusations are true and the discrepancies are due to honest error, perhaps caused by forgetfulness through the passage of time.
While America’s prisons are not full of people who mistakenly and innocently misremembered minor details of cases, the case we are discussing is not ordinary. Assuming others do not come forward with similar and credible allegations against the former vice president (the likelihood of which is unknown to us, but presumably known to Gore and his attorneys), a very good way for Gore’s attorneys to put this allegation behind him is to find discrepancies in the accuser’s testimony. A method of publicizing these discrepancies would be to file a civil suit against her for false accusations or even to urge that criminal charges be filed against her for giving false testimony.
To guard his client against the risks posed by innocent errors (as well as to make a judgment for himself as to whether the accuser is being truthful), the accuser’s counsel, if competent, will not only have gotten her story from her in detail right away, but probably several times soon after being hired, taking detailed notes and comparing her early conversations for discrepancies. He will assist her in resolving any discrepancies to the extent honestly possible.
Furthermore, and this I believe is key to responding to Mark, the accuser’s counsel will repeatedly review her testimony with her, over and over again, as long as there’s any possibility she will be called upon again to testify to these events. These repetetive reviews will keep the events fresh in her mind, so that testimony given in 2009 could well for all practical purposes be as fresh as testimony given in 2006.
Of course, I do not know if the accuser has competent counsel, or that she cooperated with counsel even if she did. Nor do I know if these accusations are true. I do believe, however, that the level of detail provided by this accuser should not necessarily raise eyebrows. It could simply mean her story is true, that she was wise enough to get competent counsel, to get the facts down on paper while they were fresh, and to review these facts quite often, or at least thoroughly before she met with law enforcement.