A former neighbor of Tara Reade, a woman who has accused Joe Biden of sexual assault, has come forward to say that Reade told her about the alleged assault in the mid-1990s. The account, purportedly told to the neighbor within a few years of the alleged incident, marks the first detailed and on-the-record corroboration of Reade’s allegation against the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.
Lynda LaCasse told CNN in a phone interview Monday that she remembers stepping out of her two-bedroom home in Morro Bay, California, to sneak in a cigarette break away from her children. It was 1995, perhaps even early 1996, based on her recollection. LaCasse said she often sat outside on her stoop smoking Virginia Slims, and that on this particular day, she cried as she discussed with Reade a custody battle for her kids.
Reade began to cry too, LaCasse said.
“She started talking about Joe Biden. And I didn’t really know much about Joe Biden,” she said. LaCasse said that Reade told her that when she was working in Washington some years prior, Biden “had pushed her up against a wall and he put his hand up her skirt and he put his fingers inside of her, and she was dealing with the aftermath of that.”
Business Insider first reported on LaCasse and her recollection of this conversation with Reade.
The Biden campaign has denied Reade’s allegation that Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993 when she was an aide in his Senate office. Asked for comment about LaCasse’s account, the Biden campaign referred to a statement previously released by deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield.
“Vice President Biden has dedicated his public life to changing the culture and the laws around violence against women. He authored and fought for the passage and reauthorization of the landmark Violence Against Women Act. He firmly believes that women have a right to be heard – and heard respectfully,” Bedingfield said. “Such claims should also be diligently reviewed by an independent press. What is clear about this claim: it is untrue. This absolutely did not happen.”
The allegation comes as Biden is preparing to take on President Donald Trump in the general election. More than a dozen women have leveled allegations against Trump, ranging from unwelcome advances to sexual harassment and assault. Trump has denied those allegations.
For some of Biden’s supporters and surrogates, questions related to Reade’s allegation have presented a challenging balancing act – of expressing support for Biden’s candidacy and character while not dismissing a sexual assault allegation. Democrats in particular have vocally championed the #MeToo movement in recent years, advocating that all accusers to be fully heard and recognized. And gender dynamics are expected remain at the forefront of the 2020 race, as Biden begins his search for a female running mate. Some of the women widely expected to be on Biden’s shortlist of vice presidential nominees, including Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, have recently been asked about the allegation; Biden’s allies have pointed to his decades-long advocacy for women and victims of abuse, including his work on the Violence Against Women Act.
LaCasse told CNN that in her conversation with Reade in the 1990s, she suggested that Reade file a police report. Reade responded that she had already had a conversation with her own mother about this topic. LaCasse said that she didn’t clearly remember other details of this exchange. For example, she said she might have referred Reade to a women’s shelter at the time, but said she wasn’t sure if she had.
“But remembering somebody putting their hands up your skirt – that’s something you don’t forget,” LaCasse said.
But it was something she had forgotten – or at least, put out of her mind for years, LaCasse said. After the mid-1990s, she said she and Reade were not in touch, and it was only a few years ago that they reconnected around the time that Reade’s mother died. And according to LaCasse, it was last year when Reade brought up Biden that LaCasse told her that she remembered their conversation about the alleged sexual assault.
More recently, after Reade appeared on a podcast and went public with her allegation of sexual assault, LaCasse said she let her ex-neighbor and friend know that she would be willing to publicly say that Reade had confided in her years ago.
CNN verified through public records searches, photos and an examination of Reade’s past government identification that LaCasse and Reade were once neighbors.
Now 60 years old, LaCasse describes herself as “very anti-Trump” and a “very strong Democrat” with “strong political leanings.” She liked Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren the most during the Democratic primaries, she said, and in the general election, she plans to vote for Biden, whom she said she always viewed as an “OK guy.”
“I don’t know that I have any choice,” she said about her plan to vote for Biden in November. “I’m not going to vote for Trump.”
An unnamed friend corroborates the 1993 allegation
Reade previously told CNN that in 1993, when she was working as an aide in Biden’s Senate office, she was asked to deliver a duffel bag to the then-Delaware senator. In a corridor somewhere in the Capitol Hill complex, Reade said Biden “had me up against the wall; he used his knee to spread open my legs,” and “put his fingers inside me.”
Reade said when she pulled away, Biden said to her, “Come on, man. I heard – I thought you liked me.” Biden then looked angry, according to Reade, and said, “You are nothing to me. You are nothing.” She said that Biden eventually took her by the shoulders and said words to the effect of, “You’re OK. You’re fine,” before walking away.
Reade has told CNN that among the people she told about the alleged assault at the time included her mother, brother and a close friend.
CNN interviewed the friend for the first time over the weekend. She asked to remain anonymous in order to protect her privacy.
The friend told CNN that she and Reade became close in the early 1990s when she spent multiple semesters interning in Washington, DC, to receive college credits. One of her internships was with the late-Sen. Ted Kennedy.
According to the friend, Reade told her on multiple occasions while she was working in Biden’s Senate office about physical interactions with the then-senator that had made her feel uncomfortable. She said she encouraged Reade to raise the problem with her bosses. Reade told her she did several times but that “nothing changed,” according to the friend. A longtime executive assistant to Biden when he was a US senator has said she did not receive complaints from Reade or anyone else.
Then, in 1993, when the friend was back in school, she received a phone call from Reade. Reade told her in detail that she had been sexually assaulted by Biden on Capitol Hill. The friend said she believes Reade called her within days of the alleged assault.
The friend said she advised Reade against filing a police report at the time.
The two remained in touch, on and off, over the years, the friend said. Last year, she said she again found herself urging Reade to exercise caution when Reade shared that she was contemplating going public about Biden. At the time, multiple women had come forward to say they had experienced physical interactions with Biden in the past that had made them feel uncomfortable. None of them accused him of sexual assault. The friend said she encouraged Reade to only publicly share her allegation of sexual harassment, which is what Reade ultimately did last year.
“I thought she was safer just talking about the harassment,” the friend said. “It was probably bad advice.”
Reade says her mother called into ‘Larry King Live’
According to Reade, she called her mother on the night of the alleged assault. Her mother was “adamant” that she call the police, but Reade said she did not.
Video from 1993 surfaced last week that appears to feature Reade’s mother calling into a cable TV show to seek advice around the time of the alleged assault.
In a “Larry King Live” segment that aired on August 11, 1993, on CNN, an unnamed woman calls in to the show with her location identified on the screen as San Luis Obispo, California. The show was about the cutthroat nature of Washington, DC, politics and media.
“Yes, hello. I’m wondering what a staffer would do besides go to the press in Washington?” she asks. “My daughter has just left there after working for a prominent senator, and could not get through with her problems at all, and the only thing she could have done was go to the press, and she chose not to do it out of respect for him.”
Larry King responds: “In other words, she had a story to tell but out of respect for the person she worked for, she didn’t tell it?”
“That’s true,” the caller says.
The woman does not mention sexual assault or harassment, nor does she describe in any detail what “problems” she might be referring to. Her daughter’s name and Biden are also not mentioned.
Reade previously told CNN that she is certain the voice in the video belongs to her mother, Jeanette Altimus, who died a few years ago.
Reade said she recalls her mother telling her sometime after the alleged assault that she had called into Larry King’s show.
“I think what makes me emotional is that I was really hard on her and I said, ‘Why would you do that, it’s scary to me,’” Reade told CNN. “I had told her not to do that and she did and she did it on her own and I know now. I wish I could go back and I could hug her and say thank you for being a good mom and trying to protect me.”
The Washington Post interviewed Reade’s brother, Collin Moulton, who told the paper that she had told him in 1993 that Biden had “behaved inappropriately by touching her neck and shoulders” but not about the alleged sexual assault. Several days after that interview with Reade’s brother, the Post said, “he said in a text message that he recalled her telling him that Biden had put his hand ‘under her clothes.’”
Reached by text message over the weekend, Moulton told CNN that Reade told him in the early 1990s that she had been asked to bring Biden his gym bag, and that in a private setting, he had cornered her against the wall and put his hands under her clothes.
“My mom wanted her to go to the police,” he said.
Moulton also said he remembered Reade telling him that she had been asked to serve drinks at an event for Biden because she had “nice legs,” and that Biden had touched her shoulders and neck.
Biden’s longtime executive assistant disputes allegation
Reade has said that she filed a complaint about Biden’s alleged sexual harassment with a personnel office on Capitol Hill around 1993 but that she did not have a copy of it; media outlets including The New York Times that have done extensive reporting said they could not locate it.
Reade also filed a police report in Washington about the alleged assault earlier this month. CNN obtained the incident report from DC police – it states that “Subject-1 disclosed that she was the victim of a sexual assault which was committed by Subject-2 in 1993.”
The Times also spoke with nearly two dozen people who worked with Biden in the early 1990s, and none corroborated Reade’s allegation.
Last year, when Reade publicly alleged that Biden had made her feel uncomfortable by touching her neck and shoulders, Reade said she received death threats, and that a victim advocate had advised her to speak to the police.
In addition to the statement from Bedingfield, the Biden campaign also shared a statement from Marianne Baker, who was Biden’s executive assistant in the 1980s and 1990s when he was a senator. Reade has said that she complained to Baker and other aides in the senator’s office about being harassed by Biden, but not about the alleged assault.
“In all my years working for Senator Biden, I never once witnessed, or heard of, or received, any reports of inappropriate conduct, period – not from Ms. Reade, not from anyone. I have absolutely no knowledge or memory of Ms. Reade’s accounting of events, which would have left a searing impression on me as a woman professional, and as a manager,” Baker said. “These clearly false allegations are in complete contradiction to both the inner workings of our Senate office and to the man I know and worked so closely with for almost two decades.”
Baker also said that dozens of employees had reported to her over the years, and that Biden himself had fostered “a professional workplace” environment in his Senate office.
Two other aides to Biden who worked in his Senate office at the time – Dennis Toner and Ted Kaufman – told The Times they had no recollection of Reade or her complaint.
The Times also said it recently interviewed all of the women who publicly came out last year to say they had uncomfortable physical interactions with Biden. Those women “did not have any new information about their experiences to add,” the paper said, but several of them said they believed Reade’s new allegation.
Lucy Flores, a former Nevada assemblywoman, described an encounter with Biden in 2014 where she said he had made her feel “uneasy, gross and confused” by coming up from behind her and kissing the back of her head.
At the time, Biden said that in all of his years as a public figure, “not once – never – did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.”