California DA launches investigation into Tara Reade testimony

Natasha Korecki

The Monterey County District Attorney’s office has launched an investigation into whether Tara Reade lied on the witness stand while acting as an expert witness.

Reade, under the name Alexandra McCabe, for years testified as an expert in domestic violence cases for the California D.A.’s office. Among the issues is whether she lied about her credentials to qualify as an expert.

“We are investigating whether Ms. McCabe gave false testimony under oath,” Monterey County Chief Assistant District Attorney Berkley Brannon told POLITICO on Tuesday.

Brannon said the office does not yet know in how many cases Reade testified as an expert.

“We have no database or search engine to use to determine in how many cases she testified,” Brannon said. “However, that effort is ongoing.”

Reade in March accused Joe Biden of sexual assaulting her in 1993 when she worked as an aide in his Senate office. Biden has denied the accusation.

Recent news reports have raised questions about Reade’s testimony under oath, including whether she falsely claimed to have completed her bachelor’s degree, gave false testimony about taking the bar exam and exaggerated her job duties in Biden’s office.

Last week, the school where she testified to completing a bachelor’s degree, Antioch University in Seattle, confirmed to POLITICO that Reade attended for only three academic quarters and did not graduate. The university also denied Reade’s assertion she had a special arrangement with a former chancellor to credit her with an undergraduate degree under a different name.

Seattle University Law School confirmed that Reade, under the name Alexandra McCabe, did graduate from law school. But officials wouldn’t comment on whether she had a valid undergraduate degree, which is required under the law school’s current admission standards.

Late Wednesday, the law school released a statement to POLITICO saying it was bound by federal privacy guidelines that prohibit it from releasing a student’s educational records.

“Academic Integrity is a fundamental value we are deeply committed to upholding,” said spokesman David Sandler in a statement. “We have policies and procedures in place that we follow when potential violations are brought to our attention.”

Defense lawyers are calling on the Monterey prosecutor’s office to subpoena Reade’s academic records and to determine whether other aspects of her credentials are credible.

“It’s my opinion that the district attorney has an obligation to find out that information and turn it over to us,” said Roland Soltesz, a defense lawyer who questioned Reade in the attempted murder trial of Jennifer Vasquez and Victoria Ramirez.

However, Soltesz said the defense would also launch its own investigation. “We’re going to try to subpoena records and use every avenue available to us.”

Brannon said he would not discuss the details of the district attorney’s investigation — including whether the office has issued subpoenas — until the probe has ended.

According to her testimony in two felony cases reviewed by POLITICO, including the Vasquez-Ramirez case, Reade stated she earned an undergraduate degree at Antioch University.

She also testified on the witness stand in December 2018 that “I have not taken the bar exam.” That answer came in response to a question asking whether she was a licensed attorney in the state of California, according to an official court transcript of the proceeding.

However, an archived 2012 account from her personal blog, which was taken down from the Internet, alludes to two prior attempts: “taking the California bar exam a third time ... hoping I can charm it and pass!”

Reade’s attorney, Douglas Wigdor, announced Friday he was no longer representing her. Reade could not immediately be reached for comment.

Soltesz said that, if false, the testimony would have undermined Reade’s status as an expert witness.

“She testified under oath that she never took the bar exam. She’s got a personal blog out there saying she failed the bar twice. Maybe she made that up,” Soltesz said. “She didn’t want to tell the truth that she didn’t pass the bar because that would diminish her credibility as an expert.”

Patrick McKenna, executive director of the Sixth District Appellate Program, a publicly funded law firm that handles appeals for indigent clients, told POLITICO last week his office is doing its own review of cases in which Reade testified as an expert, determining whether defense attorneys could challenge their clients’ convictions.

“The significance for me is she was qualified as an expert based partially on her educational background as well as her career,” McKenna said. “If those things were not true, then she may not have qualified as an expert, or, had the defense attorneys known about these things, they could have asked her about these things in court. It would go directly toward her credibility.”