US Senate candidate Roy Moore casts doubt on fifth accuser
A lawyer for embattled Senate candidate Roy Moore has raised questions about evidence provided by a woman who claims he sexually assaulted her as a teen.
Beverly Young Nelson showed Mr Moore's purported signature and message in her high school yearbook as proof of his alleged interest in her.
His lawyer cast doubt on the signature and called on Mrs Nelson to release the yearbook for handwriting examination.
Six women have come forward to accuse Mr Moore of sexual misconduct.
Many of the woman accuse him of initiating sexual contact while they were teenage girls.
The 70-year-old former Alabama Supreme Court judge has flatly denied the claims.
- Why people are posting #MeAt14
Mr Moore's lawyer, Phillip Jauregui, told reporters on Wednesday the allegations against his client were "incredibly painful" and suggested his fifth accuser had altered the judge's signature in her yearbook.
"Was it written by somebody else?" Mr Jauregui asked, before urging Mrs Nelson's lawyer, Gloria Allred, to release the yearbook to a "neutral custodian" to analyse the signature.
He claimed the handwriting was different from the judge's signature.
The yearbook message reads: "To a sweeter more beautiful girl I could not say Merry Christmas. Christmas 1977. Love, Roy Moore, D.A. 12-22-77 Olde Hickory House."
Mrs Nelson said she was 16 years old and working as a waitress at the Olde Hickory House when Mr Moore, who was 30 at the time, allegedly wrote the message. She claims he tried to force himself on her about a week later.
Her account followed a Washington Post report quoting four women by name, including one who alleged Mr Moore initiated sexual contact with her when she was 14 – beneath the legal age of consent in Alabama – while he was a prosecutor in his 30s.
The news conference came as a sixth woman accused Mr Moore of sexual misconduct, alleging that he groped her in his office when she was 28 years old.
- Conservatives back firebrand after abuse report
- Roy Moore on gays, Muslims and Darwin
US President Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, strongly condemned Mr Moore to the Associated Press news agency on Wednesday.
"There's a special place in hell for people who prey on children," she said. "I've yet to see a valid explanation [from Moore] and I have no reason to doubt the victims' accounts."
President Trump has yet to publicly comment on the controversy while several prominent Republicans have called on him to "step aside" in the Senate race.
Mr Jauregui on Wednesday disputed Mrs Nelson's claim that she did not have contact with Mr Moore since the alleged 1977 incident.
He said the judge presided over Mrs Nelson's divorce in 1999 and suggested she lifted his signature from her court documents from the case.
Mr Moore had no recollection of signing "DA" after his name, but had an assistant with those initials at the time of Mrs Nelson's divorce who would have stamped it on court filings, Mr Jauregui said.
Mr Moore, an outspoken Christian conservative, had been a heavy favourite to win the 12 December election against Democrat Doug Jones.