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“An open secret”: Women testify to Moore’s pattern of interest in underage girls

None of the women accused Moore of sexual misconduct, and some did not find Moore’s actions inappropriate at the time

Leigh Corfman is suing Roy Moore for defamation over his response to her allegations that he initiated sexual contact with her when she was 14 years old.

As the fourth day of a defamation trial between Roy Moore and his accuser Leigh Corfman began Thursday, the prosecution questioned several women who testified to Moore’s pursuit of them when they were under 19 and he was in his 30s. 

Kelly Thorp, whose testimony was given in the form of video deposition, told prosecutors that it was “an open secret” that Moore “sought out young girls.”

“It was an open secret to anybody in Gadsden around my age,” Thorp said. “It was not a big secret.”

Thorp shared her experience with following a 2017 Washington Post article detailing Corfman’s allegations as well as the experiences of three other women.

Moore was running in a special election for the U.S. Senate at the time the article was published, which he eventually lost to Democratic opponent Doug Jones.

Thorp told, and repeated in her deposition, that Moore had come in for a meal at Red Lobster, where she worked as a hostess at 17 years old, and asked her for her number.

She says she asked Moore “Do you know how old I am?” To which she says he responded, “Yes, I go out with girls your age all the time.”

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Defense attorney Melissa Isaak questioned Thorp whether there was any reason to believe Moore knew exactly what age she was at the time and whether he would be able to differentiate her from a college student.

“I don’t believe he could have known for sure, no,” she responded.

None of the women who testified accused Moore of any legal wrongdoing or sexual misconduct, and some testified that they did not find Moore’s actions inappropriate at the time but came to see it that way over time.

Gloria Thacker Deason testified that she met Moore while working at a department store in the Gadsden Mall and dated him “off and on for several months.”

She said she was 18 at the time while Moore was 32.

Deason said they kissed multiple times “mouth open” and that Moore “wasn’t a very good kisser.”

“I’ll put it politely,” Deason said with a laugh. “I’ve got a small head and he has a large mouth; I felt like he was going to swallow my head.”

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She also described going to Moore’s house on one occasion, and prosecutors asked her to describe the house, which Corfman had described to some extent during her testimony. 

Deason could not provide many details, except for distinctly remembering “some kind of love beads that hippies had, something you would see in a brothel in a movie about Vietnam” hanging down in a doorway.

She also described Moore laying down a blanket for her, with some poetry to read. Corfman’s allegations also described Moore laying down a blanket for her before removing her shirt and pants and touching her over her underwear.

Deason said nothing of that kind happened with Moore; she said the situation made her uncomfortable and she asked Moore to take her home, which he did.

Wendy Miller, who originally told her story in The Washington Post article, also recounted first meeting Moore at the Gadsden Mall when she was working as a Santa’s helper at age 14. She said he called her “pretty” and “cute” at that time. She testified she was 15 or 16 when he asked her out, to which she told him she did not think her mother would permit it. Moore did ask her mother for permission, she said, and her mother told him no.

Deborah Wesson Gibson, another woman interviewed in the Washington Post article, retold her story under oath. She says she met Moore when he spoke to her junior class at Etowah High School and he asked her out in the parking lot after class. She agreed, and she said he took her to Catfish Cabin.

“I thought I was dating Roy Moore,” Gibson testified. She said she shared multiple kisses with Moore that “progressed from romantic but not so involved to romantic and more involved.”

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She said the relationship ended amicably after 8 to 10 weeks and she and Moore continued to exchange letters and Christmas cards and she even sent him a specially engraved gavel at one point.

Gibson also initially declined to be interviewed for the article, only relenting after reporter Stephanie McCrummen “asked me eight times and I was busy and needed to get rid of her.”

She said she was “shocked and a little saddened” when Moore denied knowing her or dating her, although he later did state that he knew Gibson.

Isaak questioned the women on their political stances and motivations. The defense has claimed Corfman’s allegations are part of a political conspiracy to “keep Mr. Moore down.”

She brought up Miller’s mother being involved with the Democratic Party and her sister being involved in a same-sex relationship, before an objection ended that line of questioning. The defense has drawn connections to same-sex relationships multiple times while reminding jurors of Moore’s position against same-sex marriage.

Gibson said she was a registered Republican at the time she spoke to The Washington Post, but had meant to leave the Republican Party for 10 years and became a Democrat in 2018. She said she had disagreed with Moore’s politics for about 12 years. 

“Roy Moore is an explicit, just a really clear caricature about all that’s worst about the Republican Party,” Gibson told the defense. “I hold a great sense of honor in my heart if I were able to have had any small role (in Moore not being elected).”

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Thorp said she classified herself as an independent, but upon further questioning stated that she “did not like (Moore’s) politics.”

“I did not like the fact that he refused to follow another judge’s order,” Thorp said. “It set a terrible, terrible precedent and was very hypocritical.”

Each of the women testified that they received no compensation for sharing their stories and also told of suffering for giving their accounts.

“I was afraid that there might be some Alabama justice doled out to me,” Deason said. “I felt like I had to keep it on the download if I wanted to see my family.”

Deason said she even had a friend live with her and act as a “bodyguard” for some time due to her fear for her safety.

Gibson said she received death threats and went into hiding in an undisclosed location.

The women also gave different accounts of what their mothers thought of them having a relationship with Moore.

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Corfman had testified that he did not tell her mother about her experience with Moore at the time because she knew her mother would not approve. Miller testified that her mother denied Moore’s request to date her.

But Gibson testified she was worried about what her mother would think; however, when asking her mother what she would think if Moore was interested in her, her mother responded that she would be “the luckiest girl in the world.”

Deason said her curfew was 10:30 p.m. but her mother let her stay out later with Moore because she “felt like he was safe because of his position in the community.”

On the witness stand, Moore admitted to knowing Gibson and Deason, but said he did not remember talking to Thorp at Red Lobster or asking Miller’s mother for permission to date her.

He contended that he and Gibson were only friends and said he did not remember kissing Deason.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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