Can Roy Moore Be Prosecuted For Molesting a 14-Year-Old 40 Years Ago?
Early this month, the Alabama Senate race between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones took a new turn. A Washington Post piece accused Roy Moore of sexually molesting a then 14-year-old girl he meet outside of a child custody hearing (among others). National Republicans have withdrawn their support. Democrats condemned Moore and some of them, including Ted Lieu, have called for an investigation. Many State Republicans have doubled down in their defense of Moore and have presented a number of arguments in his defense. Are any of these arguments enough to get Moore off the thin ice he now finds himself on?
Does the Statute of Limitations Apply?
Although Alabama imposes a five year statute of limitations for most criminal offenses, there are some big exceptions. In this case, Alabama Penal Code Title 15. Criminal Procedure § 15-3-5(4) would be applicable. Under that statute, sex offenses against minors under the age of 16 have no statute of limitation. Ted Lieu is correct. There is no statute of limitation to protect Roy Moore.
Where is the Due Process?
Roy Moore is owed due process under the law. Before Moore can face any criminal penalties, the following process must occur:
- Alabama needs to indict Moore.
- Moore’s charges must be read to him by a judge. No excessive bond may be set.
- Moore must have the opportunity to plead guilty or not guilty.
- Moore must be given a trial by a jury of his peers, with a presumption of innocence. Moore has the right to publicly confront his accuser(s) during this trial.
- The prosecution must prove that Moore committed the alleged crimes beyond a reasonable doubt.
- If Moore is found guilty, no cruel and unusual punishment may be imposed.
However, this process is a legal process. Although Moore has a right to a trial before he can be thrown in jail or have criminal fines levied against him, Moore does not have a right to be a U.S. Senator. Whether Moore wins the election depends entirely on Alabama state voters. However, Moore can still be indicted, tried, and convicted even if he wins office. He would have no immunity by virtue of office.
Is This Wrong?
A few of Moore’s defenders have argued that Moore did nothing wrong. Breitbartin particular issued a preemptive defense minutes before the Washington Post published their article. Breitbart pointed out that 3 of the 4 accusers were at least 16 in 1979, at the minimal age of consent.
Breitbart and other defenders are correct that Moore did nothing legally wrong with 3 of the 4 women (but still creepy). However, the fact that one of the women was 14 and unable to consent. The fourth accusation is still statutory rape and Alabama law is quite clear on this.
Under Alabama Code Title 13(A). Criminal Code§13A-6-67, an individual is guilty of sexual abuse in the second degree if: “He, being 19 years old or older, subjects another person to sexual contact who is less than 16 years old, but more than 12 years old. ” Under Criminal Code §13A-6-60(3), “sexual contact” is defined as “Any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person not married to the actor, done for the purpose of gratifying the sexual desire of either party.
Under the state criminal law, if the victim is less than 16 but more than 12, and the defendant over 18, and subjects the minor to sexual contact, then the defendant is guilty of second degree sexual abuse. Sexual contact is defined as any touching of the sexual parts of another person. According to the Washington Post, Moore told the 14 year old“how pretty she was and kissed her. On a second visit, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.”
Since the bra and underpants are covering sexual parts, this is sexual abuse. The only defense, if this is true, is that the girl still had her bra and underpants on. However, this seems like a silly line to draw, as the code defines the touching as “for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire.” If the intent of contact was for sexual pleasure, then it wouldn’t matter if she was wearing a bra and underpants. It is doubtful that any court would follow a clothing defense.
Also worth nothing is that there is no “Romero and Juliet” exception here. Many states include an exception in their sexual abuse laws for young adult relations. With the Alabama State Code, if the defendant is 18 and the minor is more than 12 years, there would be no crime. However, Moore was in his thirties, so no exception exists here.
Is This Biblical?
Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler was particularly creative in his defense. Zeigler said: “Take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus, there’s just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.”
Alabama state law makes sexual relations with a minor under 16 a crime. The Bible is not relevant to whether or not a sex act is illegal in Alabama in 1979.
Is the Washington Post Biased?
Some Republicans believe that the allegations are not true because the Washington Post reported on them. There are two things wrong with this argument. First, the Washington Post is an award winning paper that broke the Watergate scandal; the Post might make mistakes, but purposely lying seems improbable without evidence they are lying. Second, there are numerous women corroborating the story, so the allegations exist independently of the source. If the Washington Post hadn’t printed this, it is very likely another newspaper would have. Attacking the media outlet that published this doesn’t actually address the allegations.
Why Didn’t They Come Out Earlier?
State Representative Ed Henryhas argued this is a nothing but a political hit job prior to the election. “If they (the women) believe this man is predatory, they are guilty of allowing him to exist for 40 years, someone should prosecute and go after them. If this was a habit, like you’ve read with Bill Cosby and millions of dollars paid to settle cases and years of witnesses, that would be one thing. You cannot tell me there hasn’t been an opportunity through the years to make these accusations with as many times as he’s run and been in the news.”
There is no law requiring victims of a crime to publicly accuse their abusers or risk state prosecution. A statute of limitations might compel criminal victims to say something before the deadline arrives, but as stated earlier, there is no statute of limitations for molesting a 14 year old girl.
Interestingly, Henry puts the burden of coming forward on the women. If Moore were just a private citizen, this might be true. However, I believe that our public officials should have higher standards than a private citizen. Instead of asking why the women took forty years to come forward, maybe we should ask how Moore was able to run for office for forty years without anyone asking any questions.
It was Moore’s failure to disclose any potential issues prior to each election he took part in. It was Alabama’s failure to conduct a background check on their twice elected Chief Justice. It was the Republican Party’s failure to properly vent candidates prior to nominating them. The failure is not with the women, but with the way America chooses her public servants.