Alleged assault attempt lands pilot back in Aspen
November 30, 2007
ASPEN ” An Alabama pilot accused of trying to rape a woman at the Inn at Aspen on New Year’s Eve has surrendered to local authorities.
James Ryan Clifton, 37, faces felony charges of attempted sexual assault and unlawful sexual contact. A warrant for his arrest was issued Feb. 16 and quashed three weeks ago so Clifton could turn himself in. He surrendered last week.
Clifton’s lawyer, Greg Greer, said Clifton, who works as a pilot, had been out of the country and that the warrant was negated so Clifton could return to the United States. Greer would not say where Clifton had been or why he had not returned earlier.
“[Clifton] is cooperating fully,” Greer said.
Clifton allegedly attacked a woman, who was a guest at the inn, in the hallway during the early morning hours of Jan. 1, according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed Feb. 16 by Pitkin County Deputy Brad Gibson.
The victim in the case told Gibson that Clifton had pulled her down a hallway, forcefully kissed her, ripped open her pants and attempted to rape her as she screamed for help. According to court documents, the entire attack lasted between 10 and 15 minutes.
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The attack was spoiled, the affidavit states, when a co-worker of the victim heard the calls for help and chased Clifton outside, where the two got into a fistfight. When deputies arrived, Clifton was being taken to Aspen Valley Hospital in an ambulance after the fight, court papers allege.
The names of the alleged victims in the case were not released in court documents.
Several employees of the Inn at Aspen, located at the base of Buttermilk, allegedly told deputies that Clifton appeared intoxicated at the bar and had “been bothering several women in the area.”
Clifton told investigators that he “had not been drunk that evening,” but that the last concrete memory he had that night was around 10 p.m. Clifton allegedly could not recall behaving how witnesses described and stated in the affidavit, “that whoever beat him up was going to concoct a story for why they beat him up.”
The man who allegedly got into a fight with Clifton was promised that his side of the story about the fight would not be used against him in a court of law by Deputy District Attorney Gail Nichols, according to the affidavit.
The co-worker told Nichols and investigators that he had been at the bar of the inn until after midnight, when he decided to go to bed. As he walked to his room, he heard noises and calls of distress, including a distinct yell of “stop.”
When he approached Clifton and the alleged victim, the victim said, “I’ve just been assaulted.” Then Clifton allegedly ran to the end of the hallway and out the exit doors.
Outside, the man and Clifton got into a fistfight, during which the man eventually ended up on top of Clifton, punching him, according to court documents.
Though there were witnesses to the fight outside, the affidavit states there were no witnesses to the attack in the hallway.
The woman who was allegedly assaulted went to her hotel room and did not call police until 10 a.m. the next day. The friend of the victim allegedly told police the “biggest regret he had of the evening was not calling the police directly.”
Clifton’s case has been continued in district court until March 19, without objection from Nichols. Greer said the long continuance was because he needed time to investigate the case.
Clifton, based in McCalla, Ala., is employed as a pilot, though Greer would not say where. Clifton has permission to leave the country from the court, Greer said, because his job takes him out of the country at times.