CHARLESTON – A Pocahontas County attorney’s law license has been annulled in relation to two counts of sexual assault and two counts of forcing sexual intercourse on a prisoner.
Jarrell L.Clifton II of Marlinton had his license annulled last month by the state Supreme Court of Appeals. The opinion details the events leading to the annulment.
Clifton ran a bar/restaurant, was a police officer and worked for Child Protective Services before obtaining his law degree in 2007. Then, he was an assistant prosecuting attorney for Pocahontas County before starting a private practice in 2011.
In August 2012, a Marlinton police officer was the subject of a criminal investigation that led to a State Police and FBI probe of Clifton. He was indicted on the two counts of sexual assault and two counts of imposition of sexual intercourse on an incarcerated person. He self-reported the indictment to the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which opened a complaint against him.
The charges against Clifton were dismissed with prejudice in January 2013. After that, the ODC identified three women with whom Clifton engaged in sexual conduct in his office while he was an assistant prosecuting attorney.
One woman, listed as T.S. in the opinion, was indicted on two counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance in August 2009. She pled guilty to one count, and the other was dismissed. Her sentence was suspended for her completing two years of probation and taking part in the county’s Day Report Center Program.
Upon starting the program, T.S. received a message from Clifton on Facebook regarding a picture she had posted of herself.
“I told her I really like this one photo of her backside toward the camera where she was wearing only panties and I said, ‘Yeah, I really like that one,’” he testified to a Hearing Panel Subcommittee of the Lawyer Disciplinary Board. “And she said, ‘Well, it looks a lot better now.’ And I said, ‘You’ll have to show me.’”
T.S. told Clifton she was upset she had to take part in the Day Report program, and he told her he might be able to help her and told her to stop by his office at the courthouse.
The opinion says Clifton asked to take nude photographs of her, and she said he also asked her to perform oral sex on him. She also said Clifton implied that if she didn’t, she could end up back to jail. She says she also sent him explicit photos and videos and that he sent her a picture of his penis.
Investigators later asked T.S. to wear a wire during a visit to Clifton’s office. On the audio, Clifton repeatedly asked to take photos of T.S. and asked that she touch his penis.
Another woman, named M.F. in the opinion, backed up the other woman’s statements. The two women were friends and took part in Day Report together. M.F. testified that T.S. told her about the office sexual encounters.
Clifton denied the claims of sending a sexually explicit photo of himself to T.S., but admitted he had received such pictures of her and had engaged in “sexual banter” with her on Facebook. He denied such banter in his office, but admitted to looking at her explicit photos and videos on his personal computer in his office. He said T.S. exposed herself to him in his office, but that he never had sexual contact with her.
Another third woman, named K.M. in the opinion, worked in the bar owned by Clifton in the mid-1990s and had a sexual relationship with him that included sex at the bar. She said it also occurred while Clifton was dating her niece.
She testified that Clifton recorded a sexual encounter with her at the bar without her knowledge using the security system. Two years later, she said she learned of the taping and asked Clifton to destroy it. He told her he did.
While Clifton was in law school, K.M. rented a house from him. He even represented her in a civil lawsuit while he worked as an assistant prosecuting attorney. In 2009, her son was charged with brandishing. She said she ran into Clifton at the grocery store and asked for advice on the matter. He told her to visit his courthouse office.
When K.M. went to Clifton’s office, he told her, “Oh, you caught me looking at porn.” After discussing her son’s case, Clifton mentioned the video he said he had destroyed. He told her they could finally get rid of it if she showed him her body, which she refused to do. Then, he stood up from his desk and exposed himself to her and asked her to touch him. Fearing for her son, she said she held and kissed Clifton’s penis but did not perform oral sex on him. Clifton denied most of K.M.’s claims about the courthouse meeting.
Yet another woman, named L.B. in the opinion, said she had a sexual relationship with Clifton in 1995. She testified that she approached Clifton later to ask about a case in which she was a victim of theft. Visiting his courthouse office, she said the conversation quickly turned to sex.
“(He) said I never finished what I started,” L.B. testified. “And I kind of blushed and was, like, ‘You know, what are you talking about?’ And he mentioned I never performed oral sex on him, and then it pursued from there.” She said she did perform oral sex on him that day and a few more times after that.
Another incident occurred when L.B. was a victim of domestic violence and had a protective order filed against her then-boyfriend. She wanted the order dropped, but she said Clifton wouldn’t make it happen. However, he “mentioned something about seeing my breasts,” she testified. Clifton denied having sexual contact with L.B. in his office.
The Hearing Panel Subcommittee of the Lawyer Disciplinary Board recommended a two-year suspension of Clifton’s law license. The ODC, however, sought the annulment.
The Supreme Court sided with the ODC recommendation.
“Mr. Clifton used his position as assistant prosecuting attorney to take advantage of three women on multiple occasions,” Justice Brent Benjamin wrote in the opinion. “Furthermore, Mr. Clifton lied to investigators and to the ODC. Given the facts before us, we conclude that he is unfit to practice law, and that the annulment of his law license is necessary to protect the public, to reassure the public as to the reliability and integrity of attorneys, and to safeguard the interest in the administration of justice.”
The Lawyer Disciplinary Board is represented by Jessica H. Donahue Rhodes of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel represented the LDB, and Clifton was represented by Mark McMillian and Erin K. Snyder of Mark McMillian-Attorney at Law LC.
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case number 13-1128