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British PR man found guilty of indecent assaults

6/17/2014 GREGORY KATZ , Associated Press
British PR man found guilty of indecent assaults © The Associated Press British PR man found guilty of indecent assaults

LONDON (AP) — Max Clifford, once one of the most powerful figures in the British entertainment world, was found guilty Monday of eight counts of indecent assault stemming from attacks on teenagers dating back more than 40 years.

He was known as a confidante of the stars and counted on by many celebrities to manage their careers during times of crisis. He represented TV mogul Simon Cowell and advised countless others on public relations strategy and damage control.

Prosecutors charged in Southwark Crown Court that he lured young girls into sex by offering them acting roles, including in the hit TV soap opera "Dynasty."

Peter Watt, director of a national child protection group, said Clifford had "rightly been unmasked as a ruthless and manipulative sex offender."

In one case, Clifford was found guilty of repeatedly abusing a 15-year-old girl after he became friends with her family in Spain in 1977. She said he convinced her parents he could make her a star before taking her out in his car and sexually abusing her.

Prosecutor Jenny Hopkins said the verdicts "provide a long-denied justice to the victims of serious sexual offenses."

A London jury also cleared Clifford, 71, of two counts of indecent assault and was unable to reach a decision on another count after more than a week of deliberations. He will be sentenced Friday.

Clifford's trial followed the arrests of other high-profile show business figures accused of sex abuse dating back decades. The investigations started when British police launched "Operation Yewtree" to investigate child sex abuse after a scandal surrounding late BBC entertainer Jimmy Savile.

Savile, one of Britain's best-known TV presenters, was named by police as a "prolific" sexual predator who used his fame to target hundreds of teenagers over five decades. The allegations surfaced after Savile died in October 2011.

More than a dozen other show business personalities have been arrested as part of the Yewtree probe. They include veteran entertainer Rolf Harris, 84, who has denied charges of assaulting four girls from the 1960s to the 80s. He goes on trial later this week.

Former BBC radio DJ Dave Lee Travis, 68, is fighting a charge of indecent assault on a woman in 1995, months after he was cleared of 12 other counts of indecent assault.

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