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Crime & Courts

Inmate threatens NC judge and says he can’t do anything about it – but the feds did

In an angry and vulgar letter commemorating his 20 years in prison, Joel Cliett promised to kill his trial judge, the judge’s family, his Gaston County prosecutor, the jury, and “everyone who lied on me.”

“I’ve done 20 years for a crime that never happened, and you have my word that I am going to kill you,” Cliett told retired Superior Court Judge Marcus Johnson of Charlotte in his letter.

“There’s nothing you can do to me.”

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This week, federal prosecutors proved otherwise. They indicted Cliett on the charge of mailing threatening communications, which carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence. His letter appears in the indictment filed this week by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte.

Cliett, 44, and a prisoner at Alexander Correctional Institution, already is serving just under a 50-year sentence, which includes his 2001 conviction in Gaston County for first-degree sexual offense.

According to court documents, Cliett volunteered to fix a window in a woman’s trailer that had been broken out by her boyfriend during an argument. When Cliett began talking about becoming the woman’s boyfriend himself, she asked him to leave.

Cliett came back that night, with a knife, according to court documents. That night, after the woman had fallen asleep on her couch, she awoke just after midnight to find Cliett on top of her. When she screamed for help, Cliett punched and molested her, threatening to rape her daughter when he finished raping her. The jury convicted him of first-degree sexual offense and communicating threats. Cliett was sentenced to between 24 to almost 30 years in prison.

While in prison, according to state records, Cliett has been found guilty of 110 infractions, including the 2011 shanking of a prison guard and multiple instances of threatening to injure staff. He is scheduled for release in 2049.

Now, that date may be pushed back. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has already asked a judge to order Cliett brought to Charlotte to face the latest charge.

Whether Johnson received the letter is unclear. He retired from the bench in 2004, three years after he sent Cliett to prison.

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