Hillary Clinton touted her legal work on behalf of children in the 1970s in a new South Carolina campaign ad, but neglected to mention her successful legal defense of a child rapist in 1975.
As a young lawyer in Arkansas, one of Clinton’s first legal victories was when she secured a lenient plea deal for a 40-year-old man accused of raping a 12-year-old girl. In a bold legal maneuver, Clinton traveled to New York where she persuaded a prominent forensics expert to raise questions about the admissibility of the prosecution’s DNA evidence.
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Although Clinton later expressed doubts about her client’s innocence, she managed to plead down the charges and got him off with just a few months in jail.
The Clinton campaign ad highlights her work for the Children’s Defense Fund in South Carolina in the early 1970s, when she helped end policies that allowed incarcerated minors to be held in adult prisons.
"I first met Hillary in the early 1970s when she was here fighting for the rights of children in South Carolina," said one attorney in the video. "She could have gotten a job anywhere out of law school with her credentials, but she has taken the route of public service."
Another women in the video said that Clinton "had a tremendous desire to see that children were treated right."
Although the presidential candidate left out her work for the accused child rapist from the campaign ad, she has discussed it in other contexts. In audiotapes first published by the Washington Free Beacon, Clinton described the case in a conversation with a reporter in the 1980s.
"It was a fascinating case, it was a very interesting case," said Clinton, who was a court-appointed attorney. "This guy was accused of raping a 12-year-old. Course he claimed that he didn’t, and all this stuff."
"I had him take a polygraph, which he passed—which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs," she added, laughing
On the tapes, Clinton said she agreed to take the case as a favor to the prosecutor, although she has more recently claimed that she did not want to take the client and had tried to get the judge to remove her.
Clinton said that the prosecution had evidence—which included "underwear, which was bloody"—but the crime lab accidentally threw the blood-stained sections of cloth away after it finished testing them.
Clinton said she took the underwear to a well-known forensics expert in New York to see whether he could challenge the evidence. He said the evidence had been invalidated.
"The story through the grape vine was that if you could get [this investigator] interested in the case then you had the foremost expert in the world willing to testify, so maybe it came out the way you wanted it to come out," she said.
When Clinton returned to Arkansas, she said she gave the prosecutor a clipping of the New York forensic investigator’s "Who’s Who."
"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,’" said Clinton, breaking into laughter.
Prior to securing the plea bargain, Clinton indicated in court documents that she planned to challenge the credibility of the 12-year-old victim.
In a July 28, 1975, court affidavit, Clinton wrote that she had been informed the young girl was "emotionally unstable" and had a "tendency to seek out older men and engage in fantasizing."