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Trial begins for woman accused of harassing officer's family

Trial begins for woman accused of harassing officer's family

Officer's wife describes alleged harassment during her testimony on Friday

SCHENECTADY -- When Sharon Clifford was contacted by a person who said her husband was having an affair, she wanted to know more.

The email was sent in March to an account Sharon Clifford said she shared with the rest of her family, according to testimony in City Court Friday. So when she responded, she told the person to contact her on her cellphone and gave the person her number, she testified.

What she got were photographs -- including nude photos -- insults and threats that the photos would be shared with other family members, she told the court.

That’s when Sharon Clifford decided she needed to go to the police, she said.

Other details of the case were laid out by Assistant District Attorney Mike Nobles during the non-jury bench trial of Kimberly Duncan.

But Duncan’s attorney, Schenectady-based Brian Mercy, said his client’s arrest was the result of a woman scorned -- a woman who sought help from her brother-in-law, Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford.

“The only reason we’re here today is because Eric is the chief of police,” Mercy said. “She knew to go to him to gain her vengeance against Duncan.”

Duncan is currently facing a second-degree harassment charge, which accuses her of harassing Sharon Clifford, the wife of Schenectady Police Office Sean Clifford, after an affair between her and Sean Clifford ended. The affair lasted from early fall of 2016 until the early months of 2017, according to Nobles.

Duncan was arrested and charged in April.

In July, Duncan filed a notice of claim against Chief Clifford, claiming he abused his powers by having her arrested by state police on a stalking charge in April. It also said he abused his power by obtaining orders of protection against her for his five family members. Duncan said she never met the family.

Chief Clifford and the city claimed they did nothing wrong. Sean Clifford is Chief Clifford's brother.

Nobles laid out his case in front of City Court Judge Teneka Frost. He framed Duncan as a woman upset that the man she was having an affair with was not leaving his wife.

Duncan first tried to contact Sharon Clifford in March through the Facebook page of Katie O’Byrnes Irish Pub and Restaurant, located on the corner of State Street and Erie Boulevard, according to Nobles.

When she couldn’t get through to her there -- because Sharon Clifford doesn’t manage that page -- Duncan tried to reach her through email.

Nobles said Duncan used a fake name when emailing Sharon Clifford to say Clifford's husband was having an affair with another woman.

When the two began texting each other, Duncan was able to use an app that masked her cellphone number, Nobles said.

“Ironically, she doesn’t want Sharon to harass her,” Nobles said in court.

Sharon Clifford asked Duncan for more information and explained she wanted proof the affair occurred, Nobles said. She tried to arrange a meeting, but each time they arranged a time, Duncan would back out, he said.

The last message Sharon Clifford would see from the "informant" was on April 2.

On April 16, Duncan chose to contact Clifford with her actual cellphone number revealed, Nobles said.

Nobles said Duncan sent a total of 56 messages, with several of them being photos.

During her testimony on Friday, Clifford said the photos ranged from images of Sean Clifford’s police K-9, to nude photos of Duncan.

“I was sent pictures of her body -- messages that let me know she has it all ... and that [Sean Clifford] doesn’t want me," Clifford testified.

Sharon Clifford said the last straw came when Duncan claimed she would send the photos to Clifford's three children, whose ages at the time ranged from 14 to 20.

“She threatened that if I ruined her day, she would send those pictures to my kids,” Clifford testified.

Soon after Clifford received that threat, she said she got a phone call from her brother-in-law, Chief Clifford.

Sharon Clifford told Chief Clifford she wanted to go to the police, but Chief Clifford told her they couldn’t go to the Schenectady Police Department -- that they needed to have a different agency handle the matter, she testified.

Chief Clifford told her to meet him at the New York State Police Princetown barracks, where they met with state police investigators.

State Police Investigator Jamie Castiglione testified in court that Chief Clifford was only there in a supportive role. He said that, at no time did he ask state police to charge and arrest Duncan.

It was there, Sharon Clifford admitted, that she sent Duncan a text message asking her to stop sending messages to her and her family.

Mercy pointed out during his opening statement that Sharon Clifford at first kept asking for more information -- for proof of the affair.

During his cross-examination of Sharon Clifford, Mercy asked her if, at any point, she asked Duncan to stop sending messages.

Sharon Clifford admitted it wasn’t until she was at the state police barracks that she asked Duncan to cease contacting her.

Nobles then had some more questions for Sharon Clifford.

“Did you ask to be insulted?” Nobles asked.

“No,” Sharon Clifford responded.

He then asked Sharon Clifford if she asked for nude pictures of Duncan, to which she replied no.

“Did you ask to have her threaten to send anything to your children?” Nobles asked.

“No,” Sharon Clifford said.

The trial is scheduled to resume on Aug. 30.

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