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Sex abuse, assault case declared mistrial

Jul. 25, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Late issues with a juror forced Cabell Circuit Judge Paul T. Farrell to declare a mistrial Tuesday in the case of an already convicted sex offender facing new charges, according to the defendant's attorney and court officials.

Clifford Pelfrey Jr., 30, of Huntington is charged with first-degree sexual assault and first-degree sexual abuse. The March 2011 indictment lists seven counts of each crime, all of them linked to the same victim who alleges the incidents occurred between 2001 to 2005 in Huntington when she was at least 14.

Pelfrey had pleaded guilty to a similar charge, first-degree sexual abuse, in 2007. That conviction led to a 1- to 5-year prison sentence and his inclusion on the state's sex offender registry.

Public defender Peter Levy said the prior conviction proved troublesome during jury selection in this week's trial. He said several potential jurors were disqualified their ability to be fair and impartial was affected by either knowing of Pelfrey's prior conviction or their knowledge of others who had been abused.

That left the prosecution and Levy a jury pool large enough to make its final selections, but left no alternates. Levy said trouble arose after opening statements and lunch when another juror remembered he also knew of someone who had been abused, which also affected that juror's impartiality and left 11 remaining in the jury box.

Pelfrey stood by his right to a jury of 12 people, and those developments combined to force Farrell's declaration of a mistrial, Levy said.

The public defender said Pelfrey maintains his innocence. Their side questions the validity of the victim's story, as they believe she is related to the initial victim and came forward after Pelfrey's release from prison.

Levy said a new trial date has been set for Nov. 12.

Follow Curtis Johnson at Facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD and via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD.

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