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5/14/07 Foster parent’s trial continues Monday
Published May 14, 2007 10:11 am -
By Krystal J. Carman
Witness seeks legal advice before more testimony
Peg Clements is seeking legal advice after learning Thursday that she could be criminally charged in connection with the case against her husband, James Clements III, who is now on trial for allegedly sexually assaulting a former foster daughter. Mrs. Clements was called as a witness for the defense last week. She brought with her photos of a happy family, including the alleged victim foster child, and a video of a vacation the family took to Branson and St. Louis, Mo., in May 2005. The jury was allowed to view the vacation video. Assistant District Attorney Patrick Abitbol, during cross-examination, said Mrs. Clements testimony was intended to portray a “harmonious family relationship.” “But that was not the case, was it?” he asked Mrs. Clements. “Something happened in the home that changed her (the alleged victim’s) attitude toward you,” to which she answered no. Abitbol was referencing a letter written by the victim to the Clements believed to have been written in 2005. After a brief conversation at the bench of Judge Dwayne Steidley between Abitbol, defense attorney Patrick Adams and the judge, presumably about previous statements made by Mrs. Clements, the jury was asked to leave the room. Abitbol then requested to use records from a Department of Human Services interview with Mrs. Clements. He told the judge Mrs. Clements made statements to the DHS interviewer last year insinuating she had knowledge of the allegations through her husband. Mrs. Clements “may need to be read a Miranda,” Abitbol said, as he claimed she knew of the alleged events taking place prior to her husband’s arrest. Defense attorney Patrick Adams told the judge Mrs. Clements only became aware of allegations against her husband after his arrest. In a move that put the trial on hold until Monday, Judge Steidley asked Mrs. Clements if she would like to seek legal advice before testifying any further concerning the matter. She replied, “Yes.” Steidley told the court, determination of whether or not the DHS records can be used in the trial since they were previously ruled off limits to either party will depend on the answers given to questions asked by the State. “She needs to be asked if the relationship in her home was harmonious all the time and if she answers ‘yes’, then the next question should be, ‘Have you learned anything since the time the victim left your home to change that opinion’,” Steidley told the attorneys. “If she says no, then you may be able to bring up the DHS reports. If she says yes, then you may inquire as to what that information was she learned.” Clements III stands accused of raping, molesting and sodomizing his former 13-year-old foster daughter on several occasions in 2005. He was arrested in May 2006. The trial began Tuesday, and on Thursday, the defense began presenting their side of the case with Mrs. Clements, testifying about the family’s home life. According to testimony, the 13-year-old foster girl lived in the Clements home from November 2004 until August 2005, when she moved to a different foster home. The girl’s allegations are that during the summer of 2005, Clements III sexually assaulted her on numerous occasions. She also alleges he took eight pornographic photographs of her on his camera phone, showed her a pornographic image on his computer, and made her watch pornographic video tapes, DVDs and look at a Playboy magazine. Once these allegations were made in May 2006, officers questioned Clements III. Officers said he denied the accusations over and over during interrogation. Eventually, according to testimony from Claremore Investigators Keith Heskitt and John Singer, Clements made a written statement admitting the crimes. The investigators told the jury that a search warrant was served at the Clements home and a computer, cell phone and two video tapes were seized. However, only pornographic material was found on the videos, which the accused said he got from a neighbor after the victim had moved out of the home. No pornographic photos were found on the computer nor the cell phone, which was not a camera phone, according to testimony. Both Heskitt and Singer said they used several tactics to “get a confession” from Clements. Heskitt stated he believed Clements was guilty from the start. Testimony from both officers also indicated one or both of them told Clements during interrogation that he could “hammer out a deal with the DA (District Attorney)” and “just get some counseling or something.” James Clements is currently free on a $150,000 bond. If convicted by the five man, seven woman jury, he could face the maximum penalty of life in prison without parole.
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