Tara Reade's qualifications as an expert witness come under fire

Tim Stelloh

Tara Reade, the former Senate staffer who has accused Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden of sexual assault, is under new scrutiny for her past role as an expert witness in domestic violence cases and in at least one instance, she appears to have misrepresented her qualifications under oath, according to a certified court transcript obtained by NBC News.

In that case, which involved attempted murder charges, Reade claimed to have obtained a bachelor’s degree from Antioch University, where she also said she worked as a visiting professor for five years, according to her list of qualifications used to bolster her expertise.

But the university, which has campuses in Los Angeles, Seattle and elsewhere, said she only did administrative work and it has no record of her graduating, CNN reported Tuesday, citing Antioch spokeswoman Karen Hamilton. A spokesperson for the school confirmed that report to NBC News Thursday.

In an email to NBC News, Reade described her position at the university's Seattle campus as "affiliate faculty online as needed to help students with life learning and BA completion." She also sent screenshots of "unofficial" transcripts that she said showed that she'd earned the degree.

NBC News forwarded the images to the school, which declined to comment and referred to its earlier comments to CNN.

In this case, Reade appeared in the state superior court in Salinas, south of the San Francisco Bay Area, on Dec. 12, 2018. Prosecutors with the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office had called her as an expert witness to discuss the dynamics of domestic violence, according to the hearing transcript.

Testifying under her then married name, Tara McCabe, Reade said that political science was the focus of her liberal arts degree, the transcript shows.

Hamilton, the school's spokesperson, told CNN that Alexandra McCabe attended the school but never graduated. The network reported that Reade said she obtained the degree while attending school through a “protected program” to ensure that her identity remained hidden. But Hamilton told CNN that no such program had existed at the school.

In her list of qualifications offered at trial, one of Reade’s jobs is titled “ongoing online visiting professor.” The document says she had the job from 2007 to 2012, though Hamilton told CNN she had only provided “several hours of administrative work” for the school.

During her testimony, Reade also said she had earned a law degree from Seattle University School of Law and a certification through the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers.

“I train military and police on prevention of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault,” she said, according to the transcript.

The federal law enforcement training center did not respond to a request to confirm this. A law school spokesman referred to a 2009 university magazine profile that says she graduated in 2004.

The article says she was accepted through the school’s “Alternative Admission Program.” A law school official said the program is designed to get "diverse and non-traditional students" into the legal field.

Reade's role in the trials she testified at were not minor, according to some of those involved.

Roland Soltesz, a lawyer for the woman charged in the attempted murder case, described Reade as “beloved” by local prosecutors. The district attorney's office didn't respond to requests for comment and it isn't clear how many cases she was involved in. But the legal group that handles appeals for indigent defendants in the region, the Sixth District Appellate Program, has reached out to local lawyers to try and figure it out, said Patrick McKenna, the organization's executive director.

According to Reade's court testimony, McKenna said, she has testified "over 20 times." McKenna said he hasn't confirmed that.

Reade didn't respond to a request for comment.

In Soltesz’s case, his client, Victoria Ramirez, was convicted of attempted murder for helping a woman try to burn down the home of a boyfriend after she caught him cheating. Ramirez, 18, and her co-defendant, Jennifer Vasquez, were sentenced to life in prison, Soltsez said.

At the hearing, Reade said that her work on domestic violence prevention began in Biden’s office, where she was a legislative assistant and he worked on the Violence Against Women Act, the landmark 1994 law that offered protections for abused women and other measures to fight domestic violence.

“I worked with Leon Panetta and Joe Biden and then moved to the King County’s prosecutor’s office” in Seattle, where she worked as a victim’s advocate, she testified. The office confirmed her employment to NBC News from August 1999 to October 2000.

Soltesz and another lawyer challenged her credentials at the time, arguing that her experience was largely in advocacy work. The judge rejected this, saying she had the proper educational and training background to testify.

Earlier this month, Reade called on Biden to “step forward and be held accountable” for the alleged assault, which she said occurred 27 years ago in the Capitol complex. She has said that Biden penetrated her with his fingers under her skirt after she brought him a gym bag.

Biden has insisted that the alleged assault “never happened.”

"I don't know why she's saying this, why, after 27 years, all of a sudden this gets raised,” he said on MSNBC earlier this month. “I don't understand it. But I'm not going to go in and question her motive, not going to attack her," he said. "She has a right to say whatever she wants to say, but I have a right to say, look at the facts, check it out."

On Friday morning, the lawyer representing Reade in handling her accusation against Biden said he was no longer doing so, but added the decision was not a reflection on the viability of her claims.

"We genuinely wish Ms. Reade well and hope that she, as a survivor, is treated fairly," the lawyer, Douglas Wigdor, said. "We have and will continue to represent survivors regardless of their alleged predator’s status or politics."