For Immediate Release 5/28/2015
Serial rapist, Nelson Bernard Clifford, was sentenced today to 31 years and 6 months for sexual assault and theft. Clifford’s conviction represents the end of a cat and mouse game between Clifford, law enforcement, and the fulfillment of a major campaign promise from State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby to bring Clifford to justice.
"The nature of the crimes Clifford has been accused of and the sheer number of times he has been accused of committing them is staggering." Mosby said, referring to several women — all unrelated and living in separate parts of the city — who claimed Clifford snuck into their homes and assaulted them.
Nelson Clifford’s history of predatory behavior started in October, 1997, at the age of 18. Clifford plead guilty to second degree sex offense after he snuck into a sliding glass door, and forced a woman sleeping next to her child to the basement where he sexually assaulted her at knife point. He was sentenced to ten years. He also plead guilty to first degree assault, first degree burglary and robbery with a deadly weapon after breaking into another woman’s home where he tried to stab her several times with a screwdriver. For this crime he was sentenced to three years, to run consecutively with the sentence of 10 years.
After Clifford’s release in 2007, he allegedly committed nearly a half dozen sexual offenses, 4 of which he was found not guilty. At each trial — despite DNA evidence linking him to his victims — he was acquitted after taking the stand and claiming the sexual contact between him and his victims was consensual.
Clifford’s testimony relied on the fact that his past convictions and charges would be shielded from the jury. Juries were barred in every case from hearing testimony from Clifford’s previous victims, offense learning that Clifford was a registered sex offender during the commission of each crime and that he was charged in multiple cases with first and second-degree rape and/or sex offense.
Six months after his release, as another woman was asleep in her apartment, she spotted Nelson Clifford naked, only wearing sneakers, climbing through her window. The victim in this case woke up to find Clifford lying on the floor next to her bed. When she tried to escape, Clifford forced her to lie down. He then tied her hands up with a belt, started to fondle her, and continued to sexually assault her.
Once the attack was over, the victim freed herself and immediately called 911. When Clifford stood trial earlier this month for this offense he was already a registered sex offender. On May 8, 2015, after a four day jury trial, Clifford was convicted of two counts of third degree sex offense and theft.
"There is no room for hope when you’re prosecuting these types of cases. Victims of sexual assault are suffering in Baltimore and across the state because of a lopsided law that allows defense attorneys to bring up a victim’s past sexual history, but does not readily allow the introduction of prior transgressions of the accused." Mosby said. "We cannot allow serial rapists to deny their crimes in the face of DNA evidence, and make a mockery of our justice system."
Special Victims Unit prosecutors Jennifer McAllister and Jesse Halvorsen prosecuted Clifford.
"We hope that this sentence will bring some measure of peace to the defendant’s victims in these two sexual assault cases, as well as to the six other women whom he has preyed upon. The defendant has spent the past fifteen years of his life breaking into the homes of women, sexually assaulting them and then lying to city juries that the women all traded sex for money or drugs."
Fortunately, this last jury finally saw through this offensive and humiliating tactic." Halvorsen and McAllister said.
Mosby has fought for legislation in Annapolis the past two years to bring the "consensual sex" defense to an end by bringing the Maryland Rules of Evidence in line with Federal Rules. Under Federal Rule 413, evidence of other sexual assaults is admissible in a criminal trial in which the defendant is charged with sexual assault. Similarly, Federal Rule 414 permits the introduction of evidence involving a past sexual molestation in cases involving sexual abuse of a child.
Several states have already followed suit, and Mosby believes it is time for residents in Maryland to enjoy the same protections.
"Today’s sentencing was achieved in the face of seemingly impossible odds. We need legislation to change our criminal justice system. We cannot afford to try a serial rapist three, four, or five times ever again. Too many lives are at stake." Mosby said.