Jury finds Golden Grove inmate not guilty of assault in stabbing

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ST. CROIX - It took a V.I Superior Court jury less than two hours Wednesday afternoon before they returned with a mixed verdict in the trial of a Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility inmate charged with stabbing another inmate during a fight in 2011.

Clifton Fahie Jr., 38, of St. Thomas, was charged in June 2011 with third-degree assault; using a dangerous weapon during the commission of a crime of violence; and promoting dangerous prison contraband in connection with the stabbing of inmate Sylvester Hodge inside the prison.

The jurors handed up a verdict to V.I. Superior Court Judge Harold Willocks finding Fahie not guilty on the assault and contraband charges and guilty of the weapon charge.

The case began with jury selection on Monday, and on Tuesday, Assistant Attorney General Charlotte Poole Davis presented several V.I. Corrections Bureau officers and other staff, a V.I. Police officer and a forensics officer to help lay out the case against Fahie. Davis said Fahie and Hodge were involved in an argument that escalated into a fight, during which Fahie stabbed Hodge eight times about his upper body.

Defense attorney Yvette Ross Edwards presented two witnesses: inmates who testified that Hodge was the aggressor and that during the argument and fight, Fahie was seen backing up and away from Hodge, trying to avoid the situation.

The defense rested its case Tuesday, but Wednesday morning, Edwards indicated that it was Fahie's wish to take the stand.

Willocks allowed his testimony, despite an objection by Davis.

When he took the stand, Fahie testified that Hodge had been harassing him and threatening to kill him for several months. Fahie said he had made numerous complaints and had asked to be moved from the housing unit where he and Hodge had separate cells.

Fahie said that on the day of the incident, he walked by Hodge's cell and that a chock Hodge had in the door to keep it open fell and Hodge became irate.

"He start getting all in my face, and I tried to walk away, and he just kept following me all the way across the unit," Fahie testified.

Fahie said he and Hodge began fighting and he ran, with Hodge close behind him. He said Hodge fell, and he told Hodge to quit while he was ahead and just squash the argument.

Fahie said Hodge already had struck him with a metal object and a broken broomstick, and when Hodge got up from the floor, he pulled a knife and swung at Fahie.

Fahie said he grabbed Hodge's hand, and as Hodge swung the knife, they struggled for possession of the knife and they both sustained lacerations and puncture wounds as a result.

When asked about the multiple stab wounds that Hodge sustained, Fahie said he was not responsible.

"I can't take responsibility for all of those, 'cause he was holding the knife, too, but the one under his arm I did that," Fahie testified. "I give it to him hard, 'cause at that point it was going to be me or him."

According to the testimony of Corrections officers, when the two inmates were separated, the officers realized that Hodge had been stabbed and was bleeding profusely. He was taken to the emergency room at Luis Hospital, where he was treated for stab wounds to his face, head, chest, arm and belly and hospitalized for several days.

Following the verdict, Edwards told the court that she plans to file a motion challenging the verdicts, saying they were inconsistent. She said it is not practical that the jury could find Fahie not guilty of the assault and then find him guilty on the charges of possession of a dangerous weapon during the commission of a crime of violence.

"The assault was the crime of violence, and the jury determined that he did not commit that crime," she said.

Willocks said once the motion is filed in a timely manner he will entertain it and adjust the sentencing schedule accordingly, but until then he set sentencing for 10 a.m. March 28.

Fahie has served three years of a 12-year sentence on convictions of assault, burglary and false imprisonment stemming from a 2010 domestic violence incident. He now faces seven and a half to 15 years in prison on the weapon conviction.

- Contact Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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