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Utahn Aids Friend Whose Story Has Upended Alabama Senate Race

Judy Fahys/KUER
Jacquelyn Orton has been defending Leigh Corfman, a high-school friend who's come under attack since disclosing how U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore initiated a sexual relationship with her when she was 14 and he was a 32-year-old prosecutor.

Mitt Romney was the first prominent Republican in Utah to say he believed the woman who said Roy Moore tried to have sex with her when she was 14. Moore denies the allegation, but now other high profile Republicans are calling for him to quit the U.S. Senate race in Alabama.


While that’s played out in the national media, another Utahn is leading the woman’s defense on social media: Jacquelyn Orton.


Orton says Leigh Corfman, a high-school friend, was part of her tight-knit social circle back in Gadsden, Alabama. Orton calls her friend “a straight shooter.”


“I'm putting my name, my reputation behind Leigh Corfman,” says the onetime congressional spouse, “because I know she's telling the truth.”


In 2009, when Democratic Congressman Bill Orton died in an ATV accident, Corfman reached out to her old friend. Last week, it was Orton returning the favor. Corfman landed in the middle of a national political firestorm after she told the Washington Post what happened when she was 14 and Moore was a 32-year-old prosecutor: He’d taken her to his home, undressed her and undressed himself.



Orton says Moore’s allies are openly trying to discredit Corfman.


“Leigh didn't do this for political purposes, because she's a conservative,” she says. “She didn't go to the press. She didn't ask for this. The press came to her and said: ‘We know what happened. It's time to tell your story.’ And she decided that it was time indeed to tell her story.”


Orton has been using her Facebook and Twitter accounts to defend Corfman, while also campaigning for the Utah State Legislature. She’s running as a Democrat. But what happened to her friend and other sexual assault survivors -- Orton says it has nothing to do with partisan politics.


“It is a societal ill,” she says. “It breaks through gender lines, racial lines, every demographic. We need to realize it's in our homes, our churches, our schools, our communities, our boardrooms. It's everywhere.”


Corfman’s accounts have been corroborated by other women, including two, says Orton, from the high-school group. And on Monday, another accuser from Gadsden said Moore had assaulted her when she was 16.


KUER contacted Moore's press office for comment but received no response.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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