ITHACA, N.Y. – An Ithaca man accused of holding a shotgun to a woman’s head rejected a plea deal Friday afternoon at Tompkins County Court.

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Clifton Clarke, 23, rejected a plea deal that would have landed him six months in prison and five years of probation.

Prosecutors allege Clarke held a shotgun to a 49-year-old woman’s head on Mother’s Day, after choking her, lifting her off of the ground, and dragging her to another room. While holding a gun to her head, Clarke reportedly asked the woman if she wanted to die.

One other person, according to court documents, fled the residence – where Clarke resided – and asked a neighbor to call the police. When police arrived, Clarke allegedly fled the scene before being taken into custody.

However, Clarke’s attorney Luke Fenchel wrote in court documents that some aspects of the summary of facts are “unworthy of belief.”

Fenchel said that his client was assisting a woman he knows while she was threatening to commit suicide.

Clarke called family members of the woman asking for assistance. The woman’s mother arrived later that morning, Fenchel said in court documents.

When the woman’s mother arrived, she ordered Clarke to leave the residence, where he lives, and then attempted to call 911. According to documents, the woman’s mother and Clarke began to argue about whether to call police.

Clarke allegedly tried to grab the phone from the woman’s mother and, in the altercation, the phone broke and the situation escalated into physical violence, though Fenchel disputes some claims made in the summary.

Prosecutors debate evidence accessibility

Fenchel said he was not given sufficient evidence to defend his client. “We are seeking evidence … on Count 1 (third-degree criminal possession of a weapon) and Count 3 (second-degree strangulation) of the indictment,” Fenchel told Judge Rowley.

Fenchel said that his client, before the hearing, was unable to accept or reject the plea deal due to the lack of evidence that he asked the court to provide.

“I’ve provided everything that I have,” Deputy District Attorney Andrew Bonavia said. “[Fenchel] is essentially saying ‘can you create more evidence?’”

Judge Rowley asked Clarke to accept or reject the plea offer and Clarke rejected it.

The trial is set to commence on November 16, 2015 at 8:30 a.m.

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Kyle Friend

A senior at Cornell University, Kyle covers the affordable housing crisis for the Ithaca Voice. Reach him through e-mail: