A man facing first-degree sexual assault charges for allegedly binding a woman with tape without consent and sexually assaulting her moved closer to a potential trial on Monday.
Conner Isaac Clifford, 28, appeared in 1st District Court via video conference call from the Cache County Jail for a preliminary hearing to determine probable cause in the case. After the hearing, Judge Brandon Maynard found there was probable cause for all counts and bound Clifford over for trial.
Clifford pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Clifford was charged in October with four first-degree felonies: two counts of object rape, aggravated kidnapping and forcible sodomy alleged to have happened on Oct. 14, 2019.
According to testimony during the preliminary hearing, Clifford purchased airfare for the alleged victim to travel to Utah where the assault took place.
The alleged victim told the court the incident followed consensual sex a day prior where “bondage” and “rough sex” had been agreed upon. The act of finger snapping was established as a “safe action” to stop any undesirable sexual activity.
The night of the assault, however, the alleged victim told the court she was woken up by sexual activity from Clifford, who then bound her arms with electrical tape and placed a sock in her mouth. She testified that the incident differed from the first in that it was “extremely violent” and not consensual.
The alleged victim told the court she was physically incapable of performing the safe action as well as fearful of stopping the sexual assault. She testified consent had also been revoked prior to the incident occurring.
Cache County prosecutors presented to the court a recorded confrontational phone call where Clifford acknowledged the incident and apologized. While prosecutors argue the call is incriminating, defense attorney Edward Stone told The Herald Journal Clifford’s response was about empathizing with the alleged victim.
“It’s not as clear-cut as the prosecutors make it sound,” Stone said.
For Stone, consent is the crux of the case and the details regarding bondage are “window dressing.”
Stone said it was premature to say whether or not the case would go to trial.
“The plan is to vigorously defend,” Stone said.
Clifford is set to appear for a pretrial conference on Feb. 22.