Nelson Bernard Clifford, a convicted sex offender who has been acquitted in his last four sexual assault trials, took the stand in his own defense again Thursday, telling a jury that the encounter with his alleged victim was consensual.

Clifford, 37, coolly testified that he met the woman while driving around looking for a prostitute, and that she invited him in her home and performed a sex act. The woman, a second-grade teacher, testified earlier that a stranger broke into her home, attacked her and left her tied up with belts.


Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer McAllister told jurors in closing arguments that Clifford told them "a desperate story" tailored to match the evidence in the case.

But Clifford's defense attorney, Gregory Fischer, said there are too many unanswered questions to convict his client. He faces charges including attempted first-degree rape, first-degree sex offense and burglary.

Jurors began deliberating the case late Thursday.

Clifford has gone to trial four times since 2010. In each case, the women said he broke into their homes and bound and attacked them. Each time, he took the stand and claimed that the encounters were consensual, and was acquitted of the most serious charges by juries.

State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby highlighted Clifford's cases during her campaign, and has pushed unsuccessfully in the past two legislative sessions for bills that would allow prosecutors to introduce prior accusations against serial sex offenders.

Clifford's latest charges date to 2007. It was one of two cases dropped by prosecutors because of weak evidence. Both were revived in 2013 in a bid to keep Clifford behind bars.

The cases are connected through a stolen cellphone — it was taken from one woman's home during an alleged attack and left at the scene of the second alleged attack four days later. But Circuit Judge Alfred Nance ruled in February that the cases would be tried separately.

In the case on trial this week, prosecutors say Clifford broke into the woman's home in the Barclay neighborhood through a kitchen window in September 2007. With a hooded sweatshirt pulled over his face, prosecutors say, he told her not to scream and forced a sex act.

The woman called police and underwent a forensic exam that morning. She later told investigators she was missing $45 and a laptop computer. Clifford's DNA was found on three articles of clothing.

The woman testified that she did not know what her attacker looked like.

Clifford testified that he was driving around that night looking for "a date" in a known high-prostitution area. He said he paid her $40 but took it back when she went into the bathroom. He said the phone must have fallen off a clip on his belt.

Fischer said the details of the woman's story have changed over time. He said the crime scene "looks staged" and that an exam showed no signs she had been bound. He also questioned why police did not preserve evidence, such as the woman's 911 call.

"If the contents were favorable to the state, the investigators would have saved them," he said.

There is no evidence that the woman has ever worked as a prostitute. But Fischer offered that she wasn't always a teacher pursuing a master's degree, as she is now. He said she used to sell cigarettes in bars because she was trying to make ends meet.


McAllister said the woman was being re-victimized through such allegations and would not have put herself through the invasive exam or the trial if she was lying.

"Use your common sense," she told jurors.

Prosecutors have attempted in various ways to show juries a pattern involving Clifford or to join separate cases together, but have been stymied by judges. State law protects defendants from having to face evidence about their character or any previous crimes in which they were implicated.

Clifford has been a registered sex offender since 1997, when he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for a second-degree sex offense.