CLEVELAND – A man falsely accused of throwing a firecracker-like explosive device at a Cleveland Indians game five years ago was convicted of threatening the lives of the judge, prosecutor and police investigator in the case.
Clifton Oliver, 27, of Elyria, made the threats while speaking to a psychiatrist, who testified against him.
Oliver spent a month at a Veterans Affairs hospital working out his anger and never had any intention of acting on his threats, defense attorney John Chambers told the jury.
“This entire case is a result of the repercussions of what Clifton told his psychiatrist in confidence,” Chambers said. “It attacks the very nature of a patient`s faith and trust in his psychiatrist.”
Oliver, who was convicted Friday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, faces five years in prison for each of three counts of retaliation.
The fact Oliver made the threats in the privacy of his doctor`s office was not a legal defense, said Assistant County Prosecutor Patrick Thomas.
Under Ohio law, a mental health professional who hears a patient`s threats and who fears the target of the threats is in imminent danger of death is obligated to report the threats to police, said Leon VandeCreek, dean of the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University in Dayton.
“Those threats are no longer privileged information once the judge allows the testimony,” VandeCreek said.
Oliver, who was arrested after an explosion injured four people and briefly disrupted an Indians game on June 11, 2002, successfully sued the city for malicious prosecution and false arrest and a jury awarded him $1 million last year.
Witnesses said the blast occurred after someone dropped a device from the upper deck at Jacobs Field. Oliver attended the game with his friend, Andrew Mendez, who was later convicted of aggravated arson and spent seven months in prison. Security video showed that Oliver and another friend weren`t with Mendez when the explosion happened.
Chambers said the case is being appealed, and Oliver hasn`t received any money.