Former Vice President Al Gore was cleared yesterday of allegations he groped and assaulted a masseuse in a luxury Portland hotel room in 2006, closing a case that could have tarnished the Nobel prize winner's reputation.
After a four-week investigation that included interviews with Gore, masseuse Molly Hagerty, her acquaintances and hotel staff, as well as testing a pair of stained pants belonging to Hagerty, Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk said yesterday there was no basis for prosecution.
In a memo to Schrunk released with the decision, Senior Deputy District Attorney Don Rees cited "contradictory evidence, conflicting witness statements, credibility issues, lack of forensic evidence and denials by Mr. Gore."
Rees also said Hagerty and her attorneys were uncooperative, witnesses could not remember anything unusual, Hagerty failed a polygraph examination and she would not say whether she was paid by a tabloid newspaper for her story.
Gore aides welcomed the news.
"Mr. Gore unequivocally and emphatically denied this accusation when he first learned of its existence three years ago," spokeswoman Kalee Kreider said in a statement. "He respects and appreciates the thorough and professional work of the Portland authorities and is pleased that this matter has now been resolved."
Gore and his attorneys met with Portland detectives in San Francisco on July 22, telling them he remembered almost nothing about the woman and was "completely baffled" by her statements, according to the memo.
Among the contradictory or conflicting statements about the alleged incident at the Hotel Lucia in downtown Portland on Oct. 24, 2006, prosecutors noted:
- Hagerty, who has red hair, said she called Gore after the alleged incident to tell him to "dream of redheaded women, seemingly in contradiction to her assertions she was terrified of Mr. Gore."
- Forensic testing by the Oregon State Police crime lab of a stain on pants that Hagerty said she was wearing during the encounter with Gore was negative for any seminal fluid.
- An attorney for Hagerty told detectives she had taken a polygraph exam about her allegations and failed.
- Two days after the encounter, Hagerty sent an e-mail to Hotel Lucia thanking managers for the referral and saying she was more than confident that Gore "was completely happy with the professional services I delivered." It does not mention any problems.
- Hagerty named about 20 people, mostly friends, she claimed had information. But many did not return calls from detectives or could not be contacted, and those who were questioned were not witnesses.
- All hotel personnel on duty at the time were interviewed and none recalled anything unusual except for a billing dispute between Hagerty and the hotel.
There were questions about Hagerty's claims from the beginning.
She first contacted police in 2006 through an attorney, claiming "unwanted sexual contact" by Gore, but the attorney declined to discuss any details. Hagerty then failed to attend meetings scheduled three times with detectives, and the attorney finally said it would be handled as a civil complaint.
Nothing further was heard from Hagerty until January 2009, when she appeared at police headquarters to say she wanted to file a criminal complaint.
An interview with a detective resulted in a 67-page transcript describing the massage therapy session with Gore at the Hotel Lucia, including an "inescapable embrace."
The memo noted that investigators determined the claims "did not merit further inquiry" and did not refer it to the district attorney's office.
Hagerty requested a copy of the transcript of her interview with detectives last March and told police she intended to "take her story to the news media."
Her claims were published in an online version of the National Enquirer on June 23, resulting in another investigation by Portland police. The story was published by the newspaper on July 5 and Hagerty was featured in the newspaper again on July 12 with photographs of her in what appears to be a law office.
She had also given her story to the Portland Tribune, which said it thoroughly investigated her allegations — including interviewing her — only to determine it wasn't responsible to move forward with a story.
It's still unclear whether she sought compensation from the National Enquirer, and whether she received payment from any publication.
In a prepared statement, Kohel Haver, a media and entertainment lawyer representing Hagerty, said she was disappointed the district attorney declined to prosecute "but understands their decision."
Haver declined to talk about whether the Enquirer paid Hagerty and said he does not know where she is, adding that "it's been quite traumatic for her."
He said no lawsuit was expected while the prosecutor's memo said another attorney for Hagerty, Judy Snyder, "states there is no viable civil claim due to the lapse of time."
Rees noted in his memo that refusal by Hagerty and her attorneys to answer questions about whether she was paid, and that given "the Enquirer's documented practice of paying for stories, it is logical to assume Ms. Hagerty has been compensated."
The Associated Press does not generally identify people who say they are victims of sex crimes, but Hagerty had made her identity public by giving an interview to the National Enquirer.