Calais man to serve six years for sexually molesting young girl

Clifford Thornton (left) confers with defense attorney Stephen Smith during sentencing hearing in Washington County Superior Court on Friday.
Tim Cox | BDN
Clifford Thornton (left) confers with defense attorney Stephen Smith during sentencing hearing in Washington County Superior Court on Friday.
Posted Feb. 07, 2014, at 2:38 p.m.
Lisa Thornton sat with other family members and friends during the sentencing hearing for her husband, Clifford, in Washington County Superior Court on Friday.
Tim Cox | BDN
Lisa Thornton sat with other family members and friends during the sentencing hearing for her husband, Clifford, in Washington County Superior Court on Friday.
About 20 family members and friends showed up to support Clifford Thornton at his sentencing for six six offenses in Washington County Superior Court on Friday.
Tim Cox | BDN
About 20 family members and friends showed up to support Clifford Thornton at his sentencing for six six offenses in Washington County Superior Court on Friday.
About 20 family members and friends showed up to support Clifford Thornton at his sentencing for six six offenses in Washington County Superior Court on Friday.
Tim Cox | BDN
About 20 family members and friends showed up to support Clifford Thornton at his sentencing for six six offenses in Washington County Superior Court on Friday.

MACHIAS, Maine — A Calais man convicted of sexually molesting a young girl for 10 years, starting when she was 3 years old, was sentenced Friday to serve six years behind bars.

Clifford Thornton II, 52, who did not make a statement during the sentencing hearing in Washington County Superior Court, showed little emotion although he dabbed his eyes with a handkerchief earlier when family members read statements supporting him.

Thornton’s wife, Lisa, sobbed quietly after Judge E. Allen Hunter handed down the sentence following a recess that lasted about an hour.

Thornton was sentenced to 10 years in prison with four suspended on one of the six charges of unlawful sexual contact for which he was found guilty. He was sentenced to three years in prison on each of the five remaining counts, but those sentences will be served concurrently.

Hunter also ordered Thornton to serve 12 years probation upon his release from prison and imposed various conditions on his probation.

Hunter denied a motion by defense attorney Stephen Smith requesting that Thornton be allowed to remain free on bail pending appeal.

“I think it was a very reasoned decision,” said First Assistant District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh, who had sought a sentence of more than 18 years in prison with an active term of more than 11 years. Smith argued for a sentence of six years in prison with an active sentence of three years.

Thornton was convicted following a jury trial in November. He was acquitted of two more sex offenses based on claims of two other young women. All three accusers, ages 16, 20 and 25 at the time of trial, were under 14 when the alleged crimes occurred in Thornton’s home or on his property between the mid-1990s and 2008. Thornton testified in his defense, denying their claims.

The six charges of unlawful sexual contact — any touching of the genitals, even when the victim is clothed — for which Thornton was found guilty were based on the accusations of one victim. Before handing down the sentence, Hunter said Thornton exploited that young victim “for his own gratification” and “would exact a price” — sexually molesting her — in return for favors she requested.

In Thornton’s favor, Hunter noted the defendant had no prior criminal record, was a “loving husband, father and brother,” and had a reputation as an “able worker” at the Woodland Pulp mill in Baileyville. Thornton had “widespread support” from members of the community, Hunter acknowledged.

The victim was not present Friday, but in a statement she gave to the court read by Cavanaugh, she recounted the embarrassment, fear, and humiliation she suffered. She felt “trapped,” she said, and remained silent for years.

“Why would somebody make up something like this,” she wrote, and endure the trauma of reporting the abuse and having to testify? “Moving on with my life will not be easy. … This was so incredibly difficult.”

Thornton wreaked “destruction” on the young woman, Cavanaugh said, with the molestation beginning when she was 3 years old and continuing for 10 years. She “learned to live with the secret and shame,” he said.

But Thornton “has not and will not defeat her,” the assistant district attorney added.

Smith, in his remarks to Hunter during the hearing, called Thornton a “stellar probation candidate” and noted a “huge amount of support” for him as a friend and as a person.

Five family members read brief statements — at times breaking down into tears — in support for Thornton prior to sentencing, including two daughters and a son.

To reach a sexual assault advocate, call the Statewide Sexual Assault Crisis and Support Line at 800-871-7741, TTY 888-458-5599. This free and confidential 24-hour service is accessible from anywhere in Maine. Calls are automatically routed to the closest sexual violence service provider.

 

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