A man registered for life as a predatory offender for sexually assaulting a minor has been charged for a third time with rape, and Hennepin County prosecutors are pledging to use evidence against him from a previous count that they dropped two years ago in a plea deal.
Clifford L. Lea, 42, was charged last week with first-degree criminal sexual conduct in connection with a November attack at his Minneapolis home on a woman he met a few months earlier through an online dating app. Lea remains jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail ahead of a Feb. 1 court appearance.
The latest allegations bear similarities to what prosecutors allege Lea did in 2016 to a different woman in Hopkins. However, the County Attorney’s Office agreed to drop the second-degree criminal sexual conduct count in the earlier case in exchange for a guilty plea to domestic assault.
Lea left prison in March 2018 after less than two years. In July, he met a woman through the app and allegedly raped her on Nov. 25 while still on supervised release.
In explaining the 2016 plea deal, County Attorney Mike Freeman said Wednesday that the evidence supported the domestic assault charge, but not the rape count.
The latest charge alleges that Lea raped her, bit her on the back and choked her.
In September 2016, prosecutors charged that Lea repeatedly choked the woman — as he had done in the past — tried to rape her and restrained her in handcuffs.
The 2016 complaint also revealed yet another earlier sex assault prosecution that led to Lea being convicted and registered for life as a predatory offender. Court records in Iowa’s Scott County show that case involved a conviction in 2000 for sexually assaulting a minor. He was given a five-year prison sentence.