The campaign of U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore has produced three eyewitnesses who are refuting the claims of a woman who says Moore assaulted her behind a Gadsden, Alabama restaurant in 1977.
"I was a waitress at Olde Hickory for almost three years, from 1977-1979, and I never saw Roy Moore come in to the restaurant. Not one time," Rhonda Ledbetter stated in a lengthy press release that picked apart the claims of Moore accuser Beverly Nelson.
Nelson described the alleged sexual assault at a Nov. 13 press conference, where she wiped away tears as she recalled how the then-assistant district attorney, described as a frequent customer, offered her a ride home one night but instead parked behind the restaurant and sexually assaulted her.
The Washington Post turned the Senate race upside down with a story quoting several women who said Moore pursued them as teenagers or, in the worst allegation, sexually assaulted her when she was 14 years old.
Moore did not deny pursuing late-teen girls in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, but the Senate candidate – a Republican who is backed by conservative Christians in his Senate bid – denied the claims that he sexually assaulted any of the women. One of those women, Leigh Corfman, has since described her claims on the "Today" show on NBC.
Days after the Post story broke, Nelson came forward and described the alleged assault as the national media listened and feminist attorney Gloria Allred sat beside her.
"Mr. Roy Moore was a regular customer," Nelson read from a written statement that was reprinted by The New York Times. "He came in almost every night and would stay until closing time. He sat at the counter in the same seat night after night. I remember exactly where he sat."
Nelson also produced a high school yearbook, which she claimed Moore once signed, but the campaign shot back that the signature was likely forged because the forger clumsily reprinted "D.A." from Nelson's own divorce documents signed by Moore. The letters "D.A." were the initials of a court clerk, not "district attorney" as Nelson and Allred claimed.
Moore has denied even knowing the restaurant existed – a claim that was scoffed at by the media one week ago – but now Ledbetter and two other people, a former police officer and a second Olde Hickory waitress, have come forward to refute Nelson's claims.
Johnny Belyeu Sr., a former sheriff's deputy, stated that he personally knew Moore from working around the Etowah County courthouse in the 1970s.
"I was a regular customer at Olde Hickory House," Belyeu stated, "and I never once saw Judge Moore come in there."
He went to state that he never saw Beverly Nelson working there either, "and I can't say that she even worked there."
The third statement came from Renee Schivera, who told the campaign that she worked at Olde Hickory during the summer of 1977. She also claims she never saw Moore at the restaurant – nor recalls Nelson ever working there.
Schievera also refuted Nelson's claim that Moore assaulted her near a dumpster behind the restaurant, because the dumpster was located beside the restaurant not behind it.
Ledbetter recalled that same discrepancy in her statement, also recalling that there was no room to park behind the restaurant, or between the building and the dumpster, as Nelson claimed.
Ledbetter also claimed the restaurant closed later than ten o'clock as Nelson claimed, because employees from the nearby Goodyear plant came in to eat after their 10 p.m. shift ended.
She also told the Moore campaign that the restaurant was well-lit and not dark as Nelson claimed.
"There's so many holes to shoot in her testimony," Bill Armistead, a Moore campaign spokesman, says of Nelson's claims.
Ledbetter also claimed that she has volunteered her story to Alabama media outlets – but they were not interested in her version or had failed to air her taped interviews. It wasn't clear from the press release when Ledbetter told her story to Alabama media.
A search of news websites by OneNewsNow shows that Ledbetter's story is now being reported by local TV news outlets as well as The Hill, a well-read political website.
Reporting on the Moore press release, The Associated Press published a five-paragraph story reporting the Moore campaign had gone "on the offensive" by issuing a statement by two former Olde Hickory waitresses.
While recalling the allegations against Moore, the brief story did not describe or quote Ledbetter or Schievera, nor mention the claims of Belyeu, the former sheriff's depty.
American Family Association is the parent organization of OneNewsNow and American Family News. The 501(c)(4) political arm of AFA, AFA Action, has endorsed Roy Moore's bid for the U.S. Senate.