On a weekend trip to Roy Moore's hometown of Gadsden, Alabama, The New Yorker's Charles Bethea spoke with and messaged more than a dozen local residents who said they've heard over the years that Moore, the Republican Senate nominee, was banned from the mall because he pestered teenage girls.
Two women who spoke to The Washington Post last week, detailing how Moore tried to pursue relationships with them when they were teens, said they first met him at the Gadsden Mall, which opened in 1974. Moore was a regular visitor there in the late 1970s and early 1980s, several people told Bethea, and many employees remembered he would show up, usually by himself, wearing nice clothes. Gary Legat, who worked at a record store at the mall from 1981 to 1985, said it was a place where teens went "to see and be seen." He said he thinks Moore was banned from the mall in 1979, and knows "the ban was in place when I got there."
A retired police officer named J.D. Thomas, who worked security at the mall, looked out for the teenage visitors, Legat said, and once told him: "If you see Moore here, tell me. I'll take care of him." When Bethea called Thomas, he said he would not discuss the ban, but two police officers did tell Bethea that at the time, several teens who worked in the mall asked their managers to keep Moore away from them. "The general knowledge of the time when I moved here was that this guy is a lawyer cruising the mall for high school dates," one officer said, and the mall viewed him as a problem.