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Under Alabama Law, Roy Moore's Alleged Encounter With a Teenager Is a Serious Crime With Lifelong Consequences

The Republican Senate candidate would still be paying for his actions four decades later.

TwitterTwitterAlabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler* told The New York Times "the only part that is concerning" about The Washington Post's description of Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore's relationships with teenaged girls is the alleged sexual encounter with Leigh Corfman when she was 14. That's debatable, since voters (especially the social conservatives to whom Moore appeals) might think there is something a bit creepy about a deputy district attorney in his 30s dating girls half his age. But it would be correct to say that the purported 1979 incident involving Corfman is the only thing in the Post story that amounts to a crime—two crimes, in fact, both of which, thanks to Alabama's sex offender rules, would continue to haunt and handicap Moore nearly four decades later if he had been convicted of them.

Corfman says Moore drove her to his home, where he took off his clothes except for his underwear, kissed her, removed her pants and shirt, touched her over her bra and panties, and started guiding her hand toward his crotch. She objected and asked him to take her home, which he did. In a written statement quoted by the Post, Moore said "these allegations are completely false." But if they are true, Zeigler says, it would simply mean that "he went a little too far and he stopped."

That is not the view taken by Alabama law, which sets the age of consent at 16 and defines Moore's alleged touching of Corfman as sexual abuse in the second degree, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. Furthermore, it is a Class C felony, punishable by one to 10 years in prison, "for any person with lascivious intent to entice, allure, persuade, or invite...any child under 16 years of age to enter any vehicle, room, house, office, or other place for the purpose of proposing to such child the performance of an act of sexual intercourse or an act which constitutes the offense of sodomy or for the purpose of proposing the fondling or feeling of the sexual or genital parts of such child or the breast of such child...or for the purpose of proposing that such child fondle or feel the sexual or genital parts of such person."

Either of these crimes would have made Moore a sex offender required to register for life, even though Alabama's Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification Act (SORCNA) was not passed until long after he allegedly dated Corfman. In 2015 a federal judge described SORCNA, which applies retroactively to people convicted before it was enacted, as "the most comprehensive, debilitating sex-offender scheme in the land." The law imposes lifetime registration, including appearance in a publicly accessible online database, on all sex offenders, no matter the nature of their crime or the risk they pose. It requires them to appear in person at local law enforcement agencies every three months (every week if they are homeless), carry a special driver's license indicating their stigmatized status, and seek permission in advance for any trips outside their county of residence that will last three days or longer.

Sex offenders who live in municipalities have to report to the local police chief as well as the county sheriff and obtain travel permits from both. SORCNA prohibits sex offenders from living or working within 2,000 feet (about one-third of a mile) of a school or child care facility, regardless of whether their crimes involved children. They also may not work within 500 feet of "a playground, park, athletic field or facility, or any other business having a principal purpose of caring for, educating, or entertaining minors"—again, even if their offenses had nothing to do with children.

Those rules give you a sense of what Roy Moore's life would have been like if the actions alleged by Corfman had led to his arrest and conviction. A record as a sex offender probably would have prevented him from getting elected as a state circuit judge, getting elected to the Alabama Supreme Court, and winning the Republican Senate primary. The burdens of registration would continue to constrain and complicate his day-to-day decisions, impinge on his livelihood, and expose him to ostracism and harassment—all because he "went a little too far" with a girl who was a little too young.

Addendum: Judging from the reaction on Twitter, this post has been misconstrued as defending Moore or minimizing his alleged actions. To the contrary, I was pointing out that what Zeigler dismisses as going "a little too far" is a serious crime under Alabama law. I have changed the headline to clarify that point.

The "sex offender" label covers a wide range of people, some of whom have done things (such as consensual sexting) that should not be crimes at all and some of whom have done things (such as forcible rape) that deserve severe punishment. Moore's alleged encounter with Corfman, to my mind, falls somewhere in between. If Zeigler and other social conservatives who support Moore are suddenly willing to acknowledge important distinctions among sex offenders, they should consider the possibility that laws like Alabama's are too indiscriminate to be sensible or just.

*Correction: I originally misattributed Zeigler's comments to Randy Brinson, president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, who told the Times, "Until I see something different, I would support Roy Moore because of what he says he's going to do and who he is as a person."

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  • SIV||

    Senator Roy Moore will be the most libertarian serving Senator if Rand Paul doesn't survive the attack by his prog neighbor.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    You are a crazy little nonsense man.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    SIV is behaving more like Hihn everyday.

    I respect it.

  • chemjeff||

    And they are both... Agile Cyborg!

    Mind blown, or what?

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Moral depravity is a time honored libertarian tradition, so you could be right.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Does SIV still have chicken syphilis? I thought there'd be a cure for that by now.

  • Eidde||

    I don't think anyone here has chicken syphilis, I'd just note that if anybody got it they should take chickencillyn.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    I know for a fact that one commenter as turtle AIDS.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    It was still a PRETTY GOOD F*CK though

  • Citizen X - #6||

    His case is antibiotic resistant by now.

  • Brandybuck||

    It's a bit of a stretch to say his life is ruined.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    That would be.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    He can still live under that one bridge, right?

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    A record as a sex offender probably would have prevented him from ... getting elected to the Alabama Supreme Court, and winning the Republican Senate primary.

    Hmm... could we get everyone on to the sex offender list?

  • Citizen Nothing||

    A nice idea, but there's only so much room under that bridge.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    "I don't ever wanna feel
    Like I did that day
    Take to the place I love
    Take me all the way."

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    No, that one's about heroin.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Technically, it's about how lonely you get when you take a break from doing heroin but all your friends are still doing heroin.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    You're about heroin!!

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    No, I'm a speed fan myself.

    That being said, it's a RHCP song. It's about heroin.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    where he took off his clothes except for his underwear,

    Removing your socks is sexy af.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    I take my socks off last... on my back, with my feet up in the air, simultaneously. Ladies love it.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I do naked bicycle kicks in many public forums. It is truly a honey trap to the myriad hunnies of the world.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    +1 trebuchet effect

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    But you leave the underwear ON

  • Citizen X - #6||

    The full Donald Duck? Respect.

  • Rich||

    With your feet up in the air, simultaneously?

  • Hank Stamper||

    Good people don't smoke pot ... they diddle children.

    What a fucking asshole moralist shitberg.

  • Eidde||

    Of course a retroactive sex offender statute is an ex post facto law, and the knots the Supreme Court has to twist itself into in order to deny this simply reinforces the most cynical views of that tribunal.

  • CE||

    Pretty sure it was still illegal back then.

  • Eidde||

    Enhancing the penalty beyond what applied at the time of the offense is still ex post facto, but thank you for playing.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I've heard people say 14 was the age of consent law at the time. Is this just wrong?

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Okay.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Looking back, is this a distinction between age of consent and marryable age?

  • Jgalt1975||

    Could be. I know there are a number of states that have marriage ages (subject to parental consent) that are lower than their ages of consent for sexual relations.

  • Bra Ket||

    So the other case we were hearing about yesterday with the 17 year-old and the poetry that "rang true", was completely legal? And of course his creepily-younger wife, also legal.

    So we are left with one he-said-she-said story as the key to the entire narrative lumping this guy in with Spacey etc, not to mention the balance of power in the senate. Well that's annoying.

    Or do they have any other evidence? Not interested in poring into the creepy details.

  • JudoPete||

    It still is in much of the world. Some places it's lower. South Korea, Germany, Austria, China, Colombia, Portugal. Those savages! Not in touch with our puritanical values that magically make a woman magically ready on her 18th birthday and a prison sentence the night before.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_consent

  • JuanQPublic||

    So, this surely puts Christian Coalition lady in a weird spot, considering their hard line positions on crime on all those other "disposable" people shuffled through the dysfunctional "justice" system.

  • colorblindkid||

    Emmanuel Macron's wife was 39 when she met him at 15. She was his teacher. They claim nothing happened until they were 17, but c'mon. That being said, this isn't France.

    I still care more about Senator Menendez's bribery trial than Roy Moore's creepy actions 40 years ago, to be honest.

  • Tony||

    Rapt concern for the victims of the bribery scandal I'm sure.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    What's a little medicare fraud between friends? Does the federal government even have anything to do with medicare?

  • UVaGrad||

    "In counterfactual world, Roy Moore would have been the real victim here"? Well, when you're writing on deadline, not all the ideas can be good ones.

  • IceTrey||

    Nothing like unproven allegations from 40 years ago to advance the cause of feminism.

  • paranoid android||

    Moore's disgusting, but I'm a little perplexed that *this* is the final straw for the people now denouncing him, who I guess were fine with it when he suggested there should be a religious test for holding national office.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    It is disappointing that that was not upsetting to many.

  • chemjeff||

    Yeah, but as everyone knows, Muslims aren't real people anyway. So who cares. But 14-year-old white Alabama girls, now that's different.

  • damikesc||

    Any concerns about Democrats using religious tests now?

  • CE||

    Attacking children is a lot worse than weird religious beliefs.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    That was merely about ideas. This is about the person. Elections are about the latter.

  • Tony||

    This is a man who apparently desperately needed a statue in eyesight to tell him how to behave like a good person, and it didn't even say thou shalt not diddle children.

  • PoliticalDawg||

    This really is an odd editorial.

  • PoliticalDawg||

    I am all for "onerous" sex offender laws involving 14 year old girls and 30 year old men.

  • CE||

    Exactly.

  • Dan S.||

    A record as a sex offender probably would have prevented him from attending West Point, completing law school, becoming a prosecutor...

    He had finished law school and was already a prosecutor (ADA) when the incident with Corfman happened.

  • Longtobefree||

    It is rude to use facts in an online post. Especially this one.

  • CE||

    We're supposed to feel sorry for him?
    Crimes against children should stay on your record for 40 years.

  • Longtobefree||

    Wait, Alabama has laws? That do not apply to football?
    I thought it was just up to her daddy to decide if the offense was worth a load of buckshot or not.

  • Unlabelable MJGreen||

    Re: the addendum, I thought that was what you're getting at, but I have to say that it wasn't crystal clear. Coulda used a few more pairs of eyes before first hitting submit.

  • Ama-Gi Anarchist||

    Moore is an asshole and should be thrown to the wolves over his Social Conservative horseshit, but lets not fucking pretend the Sex Offender Registry makes one ounce of fucking sense. It doesn't and its retarded. A girl at 14, unless she has somehow not gone through puberty, isn't a child anymore. STOP calling it Pedophilia. Its called Statutory Rape for a reason and it has everything to do with moralistic busybodies like Roy Moore having The State become Mother and Father. These assholes don't in the least bit give a fuck about actual children any more than they give a fuck about brown people they blow to bits with Predator Drone strikes. This asinine laws are shit left over from the Victorian Era that grew out of the goddamn Eugenics movement and had everything to do with "keeping the undesirables from breeding" (ie - The Irish, Blacks, Italians, etc).


    Fuck me, a girl at the age of 13 here in Florida can get an abortion WITHOUT parental consent (an procedure, btw, that is not only invasive but also in rare instances is life-threatening) but cannot consent to having sex. This bullshit pretzel logic of twisting law until every goddamn one of us can be thrown in the gulag needs to stop. Hate Roy Moore for being an asshole.....

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Hebephilia is an attraction to someone in early adolescence and ephebophilia is an attraction to someone in late adolescence. Psychiatrist declined to list hebephilia as a mental illness in the DSM, but don't object to outlawing it. The average person doesn't care enough about debating pedophilia to learn the proper definitions. They are more interested in the knee-jerk reaction that results from saying "pedophilia".

    From Psychology Today:
    What Is Hebephilia?

    Hebephilia is the sexual preference for early adolescent children (those roughly ages 11 to 14). Some evidence suggests that hebephilia is a distinct and discernable erotic age preference. But whether it qualifies as a disorder is the source of debate as critics believe including it in the DSM would pathologize a reproductively valid behavior. The DSM workgroup on sexual disorders is the main proponent of hebephilia, and much of the supporting research has been done by them. The disagreement has been strong and at times nearly unanimous; a straw poll conducted by the American Association of Psychiatry and Law resulted in a vote of 2 for and 31 against inclusion of hebephilia in the DSM. Whether or not hebephilia will ultimately find its way in remains to be seen.

    The DSM lists transvestism as a disease, which means the technocrats writing the DSM wouldn't call Moore sick unless he tried wearing a 14 year old girl's panties.

  • JudoPete||

    Unfortunately, our dumbed down public can't comprehend those distinctions. Pedophile is a psychiatric term and doesn't apply AT ALL to post-pubescent "victims"

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Clauses in statutory rape laws that allow people close to each other's ages to hook-up make the most sense. The power imbalance between an adult and a 14 year old justifies making that relationship illegal. If two kids close to the same age do something together, they need a discussion with their parents, not a trip to jail. There's no point in hauling 6 year old kids into court for playing doctor with each other.

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    Hear hear.

  • Jayburd||

    Can't ya get Quaaludes in Alabamy? They should do a Dancing with the Stars with just sexual misconduct celebs.

  • XM||

    You guy really believe that assistant of the DA's office would seduce a 14 year with intent to rape her at a court (of all places) AFTER telling her mom that he'll look after her as she left to do something? He showed his face to all kinds of people who could put him away.

    And on the very next day, the 14 year old agreed to a tryst with this random adult, getting inside his car to arrive at a undisclosed location?

    I don't know, something smells fishy. And it'll be difficult for these women to prove rapes that occurred in the 70's, unless they have physical evidence (in good shape) and first hand eye witnesses ready to testify on their behalf. A jury deadlocked on Crosby even though he admitted to giving women drugs, because so much of that case is "he said she said"

  • Jayburd||

    Slow down people. Remember the context of the culture at the time. It is the south, after all.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Granted, the age for major life cycle events can vary with time and place. According to Arutz Sheva:

    The Westernization of the Arab fertility rate has also been in effect in Judea and Samaria: from 5 births per Arab woman in 2000 to about 3 in 2016; from a median age of 17 in 2000 to 21 in 2017.

    The substantial, systematic Westernization of Arab fertility – from 9.5 births per woman in 1960 to 3.11 in 2016 – has been a derivative of the accelerated integration of Israeli Arabs into modernity, in general, and the enhanced status of Israel's Arab women, in particular.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Strike that above comment. Upon reading it again, it seems unrelated to the topic at hand.

  • Azathoth!!||

    " If Zeigler and other social conservatives who support Moore are suddenly willing to acknowledge important distinctions among sex offenders, they should consider the possibility that laws like Alabama's are too indiscriminate to be sensible or just."

    I think you misunderstand.

    They're not 'acknowledging important distinctions among sex offenders'. They're accepting Moore's word that he didn't do it. REAL sex offenders should, in their view, be treated extremely harshly.

  • Hinara||

    Whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty"?

  • JudoPete||

    I assume the statute of limitations is whats preventing his arrest?

  • Hinara||

    Mr. Sullum, what was the age of consent in Alabama in 1979?

  • Hicks||

    16

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