A man charged in five sexual assault cases since 2010 based on DNA evidence was acquitted a fourth time Friday in Baltimore City Circuit Court, as prosecutors vowed to continue to try to convict him.
The acquittal is the latest move in a cat-and-mouse game between Nelson Bernard Clifford and the Baltimore state's attorney's office. As Clifford headed to trial on the most recent case, prosecutors refiled charges stemming from 2007 allegations, keeping him locked up without bail despite the result Friday.
Each of the recent trials has followed a similar pattern: Authorities accuse Clifford, 35, of attacking a woman in her home; he takes the witness stand and testifies that he acted with the women's consent.
"We are disappointed by the verdict in this case. We now turn our full attention to preparing for the next trial against this defendant," said Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for the city state's attorney's office.
And on Friday, the city police union lashed out at Clifford on Twitter.
"Our detectives & prosecutors are frustrated," read a post on the union's social media feed. "When evidence is there, Juries need to convict."
But Marilyn Mosby, a former prosecutor who plans to run against incumbent State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein in next year's Democratic primary, wrote in an email to supporters that the repeated acquittals show how Bernstein's office is failing.
"How do you let this happen? I've been saying it all summer, everyone but Gregg Bernstein is doing their jobs," Mosby wrote. "The police got this guy off the streets and the judges have held him without bail. The state's attorney's office is simply incapable of getting a conviction."
In the most recent case, Clifford was accused of breaking into a third-floor apartment in West Baltimore and sexually assaulting a woman Dec. 3, 2011, but his attorney, Gregory Fischer, told jurors that his client had a "consensual encounter."
Prosecutors had DNA evidence linking Clifford to the case, as in past ones, where the victims told police a man broke into their homes in the middle of the night and attacked them.
Police and prosecutors took the unusual step earlier this month of refiling a case involving two alleged sexual assaults that happened days apart in 2007. The original charges were dropped a month after they were brought.
Fischer could not be reached for comment after Friday's verdict. Clifford testified in past cases that he met the women at clubs or on chat lines and had been invited over with the expectation of sex.
Prosecutors have tried in the past to join some of the cases together, which would allow jurors to consider a number of separate allegations at once. Those attempts have been blocked by city judges.