The Monterey County District Attorney's Office will not file perjury charges against Tara Reade, the woman who in 2019 accused now President-Elect Joe Biden of sexual assault while a member of his Senate staff in the 1990s—an accusation he has repeatedly denied—despite finding she repeatedly lied about her credentials while under oath and testifying as an expert witness in domestic violence cases in Monterey County Superior Court.
A press release issued Thursday, Nov. 19, by District Attorney Jeannine Pacioni states that her office will not file perjury charges "because of the difficulty in proving the materiality of her false testimony.
"Materiality requires proving beyond a reasonable doubt in a new trial that Ms. Reade's false testimony in other trials probably would have influenced the outcomes in those trials," the statement reads. "This inquiry depends on the facts and strength of the old cases, which would require again presenting these cases in a new perjury trial."
According to Thursday's announcement, the District Attorney's Office called Reade as an expert witness on 10 domestic violence cases between 2006 and 2019; seven of those cases were felonies (and one of those felonies had two defendants) and four other cases were misdemeanors. On the stand and under oath, Reade testified she obtained an undergraduate degree, usually specifying it was from Antioch College in Seattle.
In the co-defendant felony case, a second felony case and in one misdemeanor case, she testified she had not taken the California Bar exam.
According to an assistant general counsel at the California State Bar, Reade took and failed the bar exam twice before she testified to the contrary in those three cases. And according to Antioch University, Reade never graduated from the school and was never conferred a degree by that institution.
Last May, the Weekly broke the story that several local defense attorneys were investigating Reade's credentials after she testified as an expert witness in the co-defendant felony case, news that resulted from a prior Weekly story about Reade's longstanding connections to Monterey County, both as an expert witness and as a legal services coordinator with the YWCA Monterey County.
At the time of the story regarding local defense attorneys taking issue with her credentials, Reade told the Weekly her degree from Antioch University in Seattle was conferred under special circumstances by former Chancellor Toni Murdock. Reade had recently changed her identity following the separation from a man she described as a deeply abusive ex-husband. In order to fulfill her graduation requirements, Reade said she had to present coursework completed prior to her identity change. She also claimed that her unofficial transcript from the Seattle School of Law showed her degree from Antioch University.
Her attorney, Daniel Hornal, took issue with the DA's press release, saying "at best" Reade is mistaken about her degree, and not a liar. At the time she was at Antioch, she went through a sealed name change, including a legal change of her social security number, and her previous credits were earned under a name she no longer can legally use. He provided an email exchange between Reade and the school in which Reade tells them she's a graduate, and offers to teach.
"If she didn't think she had a degree, why would she email them and say she did," Hornal says. "For them to release a press release and say she lied, and they're not going to prosecute her for it is absurd.
"It's an abuse of power for the DA's office to issue a press release and say someone lied under oath and they can't prove it," he adds. "There's no finding and it's a serious abuse of power."
From 2006 to 2007, in her job with the YWCA of Monterey County, Reade assisted domestic violence survivors with long-term safety plans, court-issued restraining orders, cease-and-desist letters, divorce orders and child custody paperwork.
Patrick McKenna, the executive director of the Sixth District Appellate Program, a law firm that represents indigent clients in appellate matters in the Bay Area, in May sent an email to Monterey County defense attorneys in which he asked them to review current or old cases in which Reade testified as a domestic violence expert.
“It has come to light that Ms. McCabe/Reade may have falsified some of her credentials and so we want to review any cases where she may have testified inaccurately about those credentials,” McKenna wrote in that email, which was obtained by the Weekly. “Please contact me directly with any cases you know about. We will work with you to review them individually and determine if a habeas petition is appropriate.”
The Monterey County DA's office began investigating the truthfulness of Reade's credentials over the summer. Chief Assistant District Attorney Berkley Brannon says she did not cooperate with their inquiry: "She refused and her lawyer refused," he says.
"There's nothing that's going to happen (to Reade) in terms of the criminal law," Brannon says. "I don't think we can prove in front of a jury that this is material beyond a reasonable doubt. We would have to re-present the other cases and the people involved with those want nothing to do with that. And you have to show there's a likelihood of a different outcome.
"I don't think you're going to get a jury to say that she mentioned a degree, she mentioned taking the Bar exam, and that, relative to the amount of evidence presented in the cases, was miniscule," Brannon said.
In December 2018, Reade was called as an expert witness in a case in which two women, Victoria Ramirez and Jennifer Vazquez, were charged with four counts of attempted murder.
Prosecutors contended that Ramirez and Vazquez went to the Seaside home of Vazquez’s boyfriend and caught him, in a tent in the front yard, having sex with another woman. Ramirez pulled the woman out of the tent and assaulted her, and prosecutors contend the women returned hours later, splashed gasoline around the house and lit the gas on fire.
"She came to court and knowingly testified to something that was not true. Our courts are sanctuaries of truth," Pernik says. "It seems fundamentally unjust for her to escape responsibility."
Asked if the situation would alter the way the District Attorney's office vets its witnesses, Brannon says, "It's going to have to.
"I want to emphasize this is virtually unprecedented and I'd bet it would be hard to find any expert called by either the prosecution or defense who lied about their credentials," he says. "Obviously the criminal justice system is a victim, the defendants are victims and to some extent, we're victims. We have a responsibility to make sure the witnesses we're calling are telling the truth."