In 1975, Hillary Clinton–then Hillary Rodham–took on a case in which she defended Thomas Alfred Taylor, a man accused of raping 12-year-old Kathy Shelton. You’ll rarely hear about the details of this case in the media because it makes Clinton appear frighteningly inhuman.
To be fair, nothing Clinton did was against the law, or outside the framework of her responsibility as a defense attorney. Criminal defense attorneys are obligated to defend their clients as vigorously as possible within the law. She did that. The point here is to examine her actions, as well as her demeanor when speaking about those actions, years later.
That said, here are four things you need to know about the time Hillary Clinton defended an alleged child rapist:
1. Hillary Was (sort of) Assigned the Case
While teaching at the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1975, Hillary Clinton was allegedly selected by Judge Maupin Cummings to defend Thomas Alfred Taylor. Cummings picked Clinton’s name from a list he kept of attorneys who would represent poor clients.
According to Mahlon Gibson, the prosecuting attorney in the case, Thomas Alfred Taylor, demanded a female lawyer, which is why Clinton was chosen.
Clinton claims she protested the assignment, telling Gibson “I don’t want to represent this guy. I just can’t stand this. I don’t want to get involved. Can you get me off?” Gibson corroborates Clinton’s account. He told her that she could speak with Judge Cummings, but it likely wouldn’t change anything. Clinton spoke to Cummings, but was kept on the case.
In an interview with Arkansas reporter Roy Reid in the mid-1980s, Clinton said she took the job “as a favor” to Gibson, who asked her. This seems incongruous with the claim that she didn’t want to represent Taylor, and spoke to the judge about it.
2. Hillary Attacked Shelton’s Credibility and Mental State
According to court documents, Clinton’s defense strategy was to discredit the victim by questioning her mental state. While filing a motion to have Shelton psychologically tested, Clinton said:
I have been informed that the complainant is emotionally unstable with a tendency to seek out older men and engage in fantasizing … [and] that she has in the past made false accusations about persons, claiming they had attacked her body.
In the end, Clinton was able to negotiate a plea deal. Instead of facing a more severe charge of first-degree rape, Taylor pled to unlawful fondling of a child under the age of fourteen, getting just a year in jail, and four years probation.
The victim, only recently identified publicly as Kathy Shelton, spoke to The Daily Mail in August:
It’s sad that a 12-year-old girl had to go through what I had to go through…She put me through a lot at 12 years old…
I just want to know, you’ve got a daughter and grandbaby. What happens if that daughter of yours, if that would have been her, and they pulled you in at that time to do that. What would you be doing? You would have protected her.
You don’t know me, so I’m a piece of crap to you. Who cares about me, as long as you can win your first case as an attorney?
3. Hillary Indicated That She Believed Taylor was Guilty, and Laughed About It
During her interview with Roy Reed, Clinton implied she knew Taylor’s guilt:
Of course he claimed he didn’t. 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 [laughter].
While it’s a defense attorney’s job to vigorously defend their client, there’s a certain unease hearing Clinton talk so casually about a man she believed was stone-cold guilty, then laugh about it.
4. Hillary Used a Technicality to Plea Taylor Down
During another segment of Clinton’s interview with Reed, she recounted the physical evidence in the case, and how, due to mishandling of that evidence, she was able to plea Taylor down:
But you know what was sad about it is that the prosecutors had evidence, among which was his underwear…which was bloody. Sent it down to the crime lab. The crime lab took the pair of underpants, neatly cut out the part that they were gonna test, tested it, came back with the result of what kind of blood it was, what was mixed in with it–then sent the pants back with the hole in it to evidence. Of course the crime lab had thrown away the piece they had cut out.
Without the piece that was cut out, Clinton took the underwear to a forensics expert in Brooklyn, New York. He told her that there wasn’t enough physical evidence left on the underwear to test it:
I handed it to Gibson, and I said, ‘Well, this guy’s ready to come up from New York to prevent this miscarriage of justice [laughter]. So we were gonna plea bargain.
Hillary Clinton frequently talks about how much she cares for women, and fights for women, but this case, and her subsequent interview with Roy Reed regarding it, paints a different picture–one of a callous, calculating woman, who isn’t the “champion of women” people believe her to be.
You can watch Clinton’s unnerving interview with Roy Reed at the top of the page.