Serial rapist Clifford Lee loses appeal
Alaska's Court of Appeals has ruled against a man serving time for sexually assaulting seven women and the attempted sexual assault of an eighth victim.
Clifford Lee, now 42, was first arrested in 2014 after a string of sexual assaults in Anchorage that summer. Five women initially reported being sexually assaulted by a man matching his description, who threatened to hurt them with a stun gun or kill them if they didn't cooperate. His arrest led to the discovery of his involvement in other sexual assault cases dating back to 2001.
According to the memorandum opinion issued by the appeals court Wednesday, Lee pleaded guilty to two consolidated counts of first-degree sexual assault in the rapes of four women and an attempted assault on a fifth. As part of the plea agreement, Lee also admitted to sexually assaulting three other women — crimes for which he was never charged.
"Lee's general pattern of conduct involved luring vulnerable — often homeless — women into his car with promises of a ride or food. Lee would then sexually assault his victims, threatening them with violence if they did not comply with his demands. Lee committed his sexual assaults over the thirteen-year period from 2001 to 2014, when he was finally identified, apprehended, and charged," the document reads.
At sentencing, then Anchorage Assistant District Attorney Jenna Gruenstein requested a sentence of 99 years.
"This is all conduct that he's admitted to," Gruenstein said. "Eight different violent assaults, all but two of them using a weapon of some sort. I don't think there's any sentence that the court could give within this agreement that would be too high."
While Lee's attorney Evan Chyun asked the judge to give Lee a 35-year sentence, with probation for an additional 15 years. Chyun said 99 years would be too long for his client, and that Lee was taking responsibility for his actions, which could have been much worse.
"I'm not trying to minimize what the victims went through," Chyun told the judge. "But you get sexual assaults where people are very badly injured physically, in addition to emotionally, and here the injury was primarily emotional. We aren't talking about people being physically struck, shot, tortured, anything like that. It's emotional pain and that's real, but it could have crossed a lot further into physical pain, so its not most serious in that regard."
Anchorage Superior Court judge Paul Olson handed down a composite sentence of 90 years with 20 suspended, leaving 70 years to serve.
Lee's appeal raised a number of technical issues, including a challenge of aggravating factors applied to his case at sentencing.
The appellate court affirmed the sentence set by the Superior Court, noting, "Lee's sexual offenses were numerous, they were committed over an extended period of time, and they were aggravated. [...] Lee points to nothing in the record to suggest that his sentence falls outside the reasonable range of sentences for his offenses, given the applicable sentencing range established by the legislature for first-degree sexual assault."
KTVA previously reported that Lee will be eligible for parole after he serves about 50 years of his 70-year sentence. At that time, he will be 85 years old.
Copyright 2019 KTVA. All rights reserved.
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