Convicted Rapist Faces Another Trial
By Tom Bubeck, of Today's Post staff
Originally published in Today's Post, November 30, 1979
NORRISTOWN, PA — The reputed founder of the Scared Straight program who is now serving a three-year rape sentence in the State Correctional Institution at Graterford was ordered Thursday to stand trial for the rape last month of a Bridgeport woman.
T. Robert Clements, 40, was ordered by District Justice Francis Lawrence of Norristown to face trial on charges of rape, simple and aggravated assault, robbery, indecent exposure, possession of an instrument of a crime and recklessly endangering another person in connection with the Oct. 15 incident.
Andrew H. Vachss, Clements' New York attorney, claimed after the hearing that Clements would be found innocent on the basis of his work-release record.
Norristown police said Clements raped the 31-year-old woman when he was returning from the work-release plumbing job he held in the borough.
"I don't doubt the rape occurred," Vachss said. "I'm only saying my man didn't do it."
Vachss and Clements both said the accused founded the Scared Straight program at Rahway State Prison in New Jersey several years ago. The program, which takes hard-core juvenile offenders and confronts them with prisoners and prison life has been the subject of a widely-shown television documentary in which Clements took part, Vachss said.
Clements was also interviewed about Scared Straight on November Magazine, a daytime news program which was broadcast locally between the time of the rape and Clements' arrest on Nov. 13, Vachss said.
Vachss said Clements' public exposure may have led the woman to mistake Clements for the man who raped her. "The only similarity is that my client has the same color eyes and he has a beard," Vachss said.
During the hearing Thursday the victim pointed out Clements as the man who raped her Oct. 15.
The woman, a sales person in a downtown Norristown store, testified under questioning by assistant district attorney Terry Simon that she walked from her E. Bush Street home to the corner of Main and Swede Streets in Norristown Oct. 15.
After talking to "Howie," described as one of the borough's street people, she walked east on Main Street, then south on Cherry Street and west on Lafayette Street, according to her testimony.
She was approached by a man dressed in denim jeans and a denim Eisenhower jacket who put what she believed to be the blade of a pocketknife in her side and told her to come with him, she testified.
The man asked her whether she had any money and she gave him the $11 she had in her coat pocket, she testified. She told him she was married and had children, both of which she admitted Thursday were false. "I thought maybe he wouldn't harm me," she said, explaining her actions.
She said she did not resist his demands. "I learned that when someone has a knife to you, you just go along," she testified.
In halting speech she described the rape which took place in a dark corner of a building near Straxberry Place. The rapist then pulled her coat over her head and he fled, she said.
She testified she was raped from 7:30 to 7:40 p.m. Vachss said after the hearing the timing of the rape proved Clements could not have raped her.
Clements had to be back in a car heading for Graterford by 7:30 p.m. under the terms of the work release program, Vachss said. The other inmates and the driver of the car all told Vachss that Clements was in the car on time, Vachss said. The car arrived at the prison at 7:59 p.m. according to prison records.
The woman testified she saw the rapist again around 7p.m. on Nov. 13.
She ran into a nearby building where a policeman was standing and told the officer she had seen the man who raped her, she testified. Clements was chased and was arrested on Barbadoes Street near E. Main Street, police said.
"He's the same man who assaulted me," she said Thursday, pointing to Clements who was dressed in khaki prison garb.
She admitted during cross-examination that she had thought she had seen the rapist many times between the time of the rape and Clements' arrest. "It's common to think you saw the man who did it," she said. "Every woman who has been raped would do it, but I was careful."
'Scared Straight' Inmate Cleared of Charges in Rape
By Tom Bubeck, of Today's Post staff
Originally published in Today's Post, May 15, 1980
NORRISTOWN — A 31-year-old Bridgeport woman accused him in November of raping her in a dark Norristown alley.
Six months later, the Montgomery County district attorney, conceding that it appeared the accused man could never have been at the scene of the crime, dropped the charges.
T. Robert Clements, one of the founders of the original "Scared Straight" juvenile awareness program at Rahway State Prison in New Jersey, became a pawn of circumstances beyond his control.
Parole for Clements, now an inmate serving a sentence for rape at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, may have been delayed several months because of the rape charge.
His marriage, scheduled for soon after his release, may have been similarly delayed and he has lost thousands of dollars he would have earned on his work-release job.
Clements, 40, known as "Clem" to friends and hundreds of youths he helped through the awareness program, was walking from his plumber's job to the car which was to take him to Graterford when the Bridgeport woman saw him Nov. 13 in a parking lot near Lafayette Street.
The woman had been attacked around 7:40 p.m. Oct. 19 by a bearded man who put his coat over her head and raped her at knifepoint after he robbed her of $11, borough police reports said.
On the November night, she saw Clements walking on W. Main Street near Swede Street and told police nearby that Clements was the man who had raped her.
Clements saw police chasing him, disappeared down Cherry Street and was arrested a short time later several blocks away, according to the police report.
He was charged with rape, robbery, aggravated assault, indecent assault and other crimes which, according to evidence uncovered by his attorneys, he could not have committed.
Several weeks later the rape victim sat in the witness chair at a preliminary hearing before District Justice Francis Lawrence of Norristown and, pointing out Clements, said, "He's the same one who assaulted me. There's no doubt."
"My man didn't do it," flatly asserted Andrew H. Vachss, an attorney who worked with Clements in the founding of the Rahway juvenile awareness program.
Clements began his life in the streets, he said in an interview with Vachss, at an age when most youngsters are in elementary school.
The juvenile awareness program was set up, he said, to keep youth like he was from ending up as he did.
Only part of the program, he added, was portrayed in "Scared Straight," a movie which showed youths being badgered by life-term inmates at Rahway.
"There are three types of kids," Clements said to a reporter during a conversation at Graterford. "You've got kids who are never in trouble; you got kids who have minor problems, playing hooky, smoking pot; and you've got hard-core kids."
The hard-core youths were the few who would get the treatment portrayed in the movie, according to Clements.
Youths who have had minor scrapes with the law were the ones Clements was most concerned with, he said. The hard-core juveniles already lead a life of crime, he said, while the others could go either way.
Those, he said, were the same youths who had nowhere to turn. He wanted to give them that place to turn.
Under the program, those youths could contact members of the prison group for advice and consultation. No authorities or parents would be called, he said, unless the youth requested it.
"I'd bring myself down to their level," he said. "I'd give them a little affection, I'd give them a little love. They need someone to talk to, someone to talk with, someone to bullshit with."
Many of the youths he talked with since the beginning of the program from three years ago still write to Clements. He answers their letters. He has time.
Vachss and Nicholas Coniglia, a Wayne attorney, both insist the evidence proves Clements could not have raped the Bridgeport woman on the night of Oct 19.
According to Graterford records, Clements was in a car headed for the prison at the time the rape occurred, Vachss said. The driver and passengers in the car all said Clements was there.
On the other hand, the woman insisted he raped her.
The rapist she described to police on the night of the rape was in his late 20s, about five feet, 10-inches tall with curly black hair and wearing a denim jacket and jeans.
Clements was found to have in his possession denim jackets and jeans in the prison. Yet he is much older and taller than the suspect and has curly reddish-brown hair and a beard.
"The rapist she described sounds more like the guy who killed himself in Chester County," said Vachss in reference to Mark Silvestri, implicated in as many as nine sexual assaults which occurred before his death last week.
Joseph Ryan, a Montgomery County assistant district attorney, said the charges were dropped for three reasons, including the reluctance of the victim to testify, the number of witnesses who would testify concerning Clements' whereabouts on the night of the rape and two lie detector tests which Clements passed.
Clements was interviewed for parole Feb. 26, according to a spokesman for the state Board of Probation and Parole. Had the board ruled for Clements' parole, he would have been free in early March.
But, because the rape charges were still hanging over his head at the time, Clements' application was never considered by the board.
Parole officials are not permitted to comment on what Clements' chances for parole were in March. And, although prison officials similarly could not comment on his private records, one said his work-related privileges implied Clements had abided by prison rules.
"He would not have been on work release if he did not have a good record," the official said.
The spokesman said notice of the dropping of the charges would be forwarded to the parole board, and the board would then rule on his freedom.
"It usually takes a couple of weeks," the spokesman said.