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Roy Moore gives combative testimony in defamation case

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, left, and his attorney Julian McPhillips leave the courtroom in the Montgomery County Courthouse in Montgomery, Ala., on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, following jury selection, as the trial with Leigh Corfman, who accused former Moore of sexual assault, and Moore's defamation lawsuits against each other begins. (Mickey Welsh/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A combative Roy Moore took the witness stand Thursday in a defamation case against him, insisting he did not know a woman who says he sexually molested her when she was 14.

Moore was called to testify by attorneys for Leigh Corfman in a trial involving dueling defamation lawsuits they filed against each other in the wake of a sexual misconduct allegation that rocked the 2017 U.S. Senate race in Alabama. Corfman says the former Alabama judge and failed Senate candidate defamed her as a liar as he denied her accusations as false and malicious. Moore countersued.

Under direct questioning from Corfman attorney, Melody Eagan, Moore seemed agitated and visibly angry at times in the first part of his testimony.

“I never met them. I never met that woman,” Moore interjected loudly, pointing at Corfman as she sat with her attorneys.

The outburst followed an emotional moment earlier in the trial when Corfman testified that Moore knows what he did to her. Corfman said she met Moore in 1979 when she was 14 and he was in his 30s. She described how he touched her over her underwear after bringing her to his home.

At one point Corfman stared from the witness stand at Moore, and he stared back.

“It did happen, and he knows that it happened,” Corfman testified Tuesday. She said his denials damaged her reputation.

The allegations overshadowed the conservative Republican during the 2017 campaign when Corfman shared her story with a reporter from The Washington Post. Moore ultimately fell in a stunning red state defeat to Doug Jones, the first Alabama Democrat elected to the Senate in 25 years. Republican Tommy Tuberville defeated Jones in the next election.

Corfman’s attorney played multiple clips of Moore dismissing the accusation as false and malicious and designed to sink his Senate bid. Moore maintained he was careful in his wording because he knows the definition of defamation.

Eagan on several occasions referred Moore back to deposition testimony. In the deposition he called Corfman,”a liar.”

Asked if he was afraid voters in 2017 would view the conduct as inappropriate, Moore said: “The only thing inappropriate in this case is the testimony that I knew her and did anything to her.”

Circuit Judge John Rochester cautioned Moore multiple times on Thursday to answer questions as they were asked.

Corfman’s attorneys asked him about the ages of the women he dated around 1979. Moore said he did not date “underage women” and, “I generally did not date girls in high school.”

Corfman’s attorneys earlier Thursday presented the testimony of women who said Moore asked them out or dated them when they were teens. None said they were assaulted by Moore, and three appeared in the Washington Post article about Corfman. Another testified that Moore asked for her number when she was working as a hostess at a Red Lobster restaurant.

The testimony, given by a mix of in-person questioning and the playing of video clips from depositions, was aimed at trying to establish a pattern of Moore dating teens.

Gloria Thacker Deason testified that she dated Moore after graduating from high school in 1978 when she was 18 and he was 32. Debra Wesson Gibson testified that she met Moore when she was 17 after he spoke to her high school class. She said they dated for about two months and kissed a few times.

Wendy Miller testified she met Moore when she was 14 and working as a Santa’s helper at the local mall. She testified Moore asked her out when she was 15 or 16, but her mother did not giver her permission to go. Under cross-examination from Moore’s attorney, Miller said she did not know if Moore knew exactly how old she was.

Eagan also asked Moore about an interview where he described how he first noticed his wife, Kayla — whom he started dating when she was 23 –about eight years earlier when he attended a dance recital. “That was when she was 15?” Eagan asked, adding, “I think it’s pretty simple math”

Moore said he remembered noticing her initials: KK.

Moore’s attorney in opening statements told the then mostly Black jury that Moore, a longtime Republican, was something of a Democrat in disguise. Eagan used the opportunity to question Moore about the accuracy of that, by using quotes from his political political career. The jury is now all-Black after the lone white juror was dismissed for saying “good job” to a witness.

Corfman is not seeking monetary damages in the lawsuit. Moore is.

“My family, my wife, my children have been through hell, literal hell,” Moore testified when asked about his request for a jury award of monetary compensation.