Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore began his defense in a defamation trial Friday with testimony from friends and family members, including his wife, Kayla.
In sometimes tearful testimony, Kayla Moore said she'd never heard any accusations of improper conduct by her husband before the 2017 U.S. Senate race, when her husband was the Republican nominee. She said her family suffered harassment, threats and vandalism to their home after accusations surfaced.
“Our whole life has changed,” she testified on Friday. “We never know when we go somewhere if people are not going to want to talk us or see us … he doesn’t speak in churches anymore. They won’t call. If they do call, they get protested.”
Leigh Corfman, who says Moore molested her when she was 14 years old, sued Moore for defamation in January 2018 over statements he made saying her allegations and those of other accusers were false and politically motivated. Moore countersued a few months later, repeating his assertion that they were false.
“This has taken everything I’ve done in my life and put question on it, and that’s damaging,” Corfman testified on Wednesday. “He has impugned my veracity. Made it so words that I speak are not trusted, and that’s damaging, damaging enough.”
Corfman first told her story to the Washington Post in November 2017. Three other women also told the newspaper Moore pursued them as teenagers, though none alleged assault. After the story came out, five other women said Moore behaved inappropriately toward them, from unwelcome attention to assault. Moore has denied their accounts.
The charges against Moore, who ran as a social conservative opposed to abortion and the rights of LGBTQ individuals, defined the final month of a heated U.S. Senate race between Moore and Democratic nominee Doug Jones. Jones won the election.
The former chief justice has denied all of these accounts of inappropriate behavior. He testified in court Thursday that he did not date “underage women” and, “I generally did not date girls in high school.”
Kayla Moore testified Friday that Moore had been “a perfect gentleman” in the lead-up to their marriage in 1985 and had been a model husband for her and their children. She also said she shared her husband's belief that the allegations were politically motivated. As she was being asked if she knew any of the women, Kayla Moore said one of the accusers had a sister “who is a lesbian and against my husband.”
“To me, it was just a tactic to try to hurt him,” she said.
Kayla Moore also testified that she had gotten death threats and abuse, and that someone had spray-painted “pedophile” near their home.
On cross-examination from Jeffrey Doss, an attorney for Corfman, Kayla Moore said that she did not know her husband in February 1979, when Corfman's account of molestation took place, nor did she have personal relationships with any of his accusers.
“You have no personal knowledge of what Roy Moore was doing or what happened between Roy Moore and Ms. Corfman in February 1979,” Doss asked.
“That’s true,” Kayla Moore replied.
Before Kayla Moore’s testimony, the her husband's defense team called Willie James, whom Roy Moore appointed as chief marshal of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2001. James said he had no reason to doubt Moore’s honesty and that he “couldn’t have served under a better person than who he was.” James also acknowledged under cross-examination that he did not know Moore in February 1979.
In the afternoon, Moore's team called his daughter, Heather Mayo, who said the accusations against her father were "hurtful" and not truthful.
"I feel like he was made out to be something he’s not," she said. "He's not those things."
Moore's attorneys also called Ronnie Pollard, an Etowah County businessman who briefly employed Corfman and said he had been "friendly" with Moore for about 30 years, and that his experience with Moore was that he was a man of "solid character." Under cross-examination, both Mayo and Pollard acknowledged that they did not know Moore in 1979; Mayo had not yet been born.
Corfman’s side rested on Friday morning, before James' and Kayla Moore’s testimony.
Julian McPhillips, an attorney for Moore, moved to have a direct ruling from Montgomery Circuit Judge John Rochester on Friday, arguing that Corfman’s interview made her a public figure and that Moore had “an absolute privilege” to deny the charges, saying he “believed with all his heart he didn’t do this” at the time of his denials.
“If someone called you a whoremonger or whatever, and you said that’s totally untrue, I’ve been faithful to my wife for 45 years … does a mere denial make me subject to defamation?” McPhillips asked.
Doss said Corfman told the truth to the Washington Post, and that Moore’s denials went beyond denial to attacks on the character of his accusers.
“Mr. Moore was an eyewitness to whether those events happened or not,” he said. “When he came forward and said they were false, malicious, untrue, politically motivated, dirty politics, he is implying a statement of fact to all those who heard it … we even heard his supporters convey that, calling these women liars.”
Rochester denied Moore’s motion, saying there was enough evidence in the record for the jury to consider the case.
Roy Moore did not testify on Friday but often got up to speak to his attorneys or go into a conference room near the courtroom. Rochester told Moore’s attorneys after one such departure that “any such outburst is subject to contempt.” Moore later apologized to Rochester.
Testimony is expected to continue next week.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brian Lyman at 334-240-0185 or email@example.com. Updated at 2:19 p.m. with testimony from Heather Mayo and Ronnie Pollard.
This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Kayla Moore takes stand in Roy Moore defamation trial