Cincinnatus man pleads not guilty in child sexting case

Clifton H. Bergman 2014 Arrest Photo (Cortland County Sheriff’s Office)

CORTLAND, N.Y. — A Cincinnatus man pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Cortland County to charges he tried to seduce a 12-year-old and sent sexual social media messages to the child.

A Cortland County grand jury indicted Clifton H. Bergman, 49, of Cincinnatus, shortly before Christmas on charges of of first- and second-degree disseminating indecent material to minors, felonies, and endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, according to the court document.

Cortland County Judge David Alexander reinstated an order of protection against Bergman Tuesday afternoon during the routine hearing. The previous protection order issued by Homer Town Judge William J. Foley expired in December, Alexander noted, issuing an order that bars Bergman from any contact with the child until July 8.

Bergman is out of jail on $1,000 bail and has been reporting to Cortland County Alternatives to Incarceration since his release, Alexander said. Assistant Public Defender Kevin Jones requested Bergman be allowed to report by phone, rather than in person, as he is having vehicle issues and the winter weather is worsening. Assistant District Attorney Christine Ferraro did not object and Alexander granted the modification.

Bergman testified at the hearing that he is living with his daughter’s family and his girlfriend. He added he is out of work as he waits for a doctor to evaluate him for a potential back surgery.

Bergman’s next court date is Feb.19 for a pre-trial conference.

According to the indictment signed Dec. 21, Bergman contacted the 12-year-old in early June with a message that “…in whole, or in part, depicted actual or simulated nudity, sexual conduct or sadomasochistic abuse…”

Bergman sent another message later that month inviting the child to participate in a sex act, according to the indictment. The grand jury also accused Bergman of endangering the child’s welfare from April 27 to June 18, according to the court document.

If convicted on all three charges, Bergman could face a prison sentence of up to seven years for first-degree disseminating indecent material to minors, up to four years for second-degree disseminating indecent material to minors, and a year for endangering the welfare of a child, according to state penal law.

State police arrested Bergman on July 6 after the messages were reported to the Homer police school resource officer, according to a state police public information officer.

Bergman was previously arrested in January 2014 on charges of felony manufacturing methamphetamine and unlawful possession of marijuana after a Cortland County Sheriff’s Department raid on a recreational vehicle he shared with Wendy L. Bellefluer in Cortlandville, according to area media reports. Bergman was arrested again in March 2014 for possessing pseudoephedrine, an essential ingredient to make meth. The dispensation of the cases was not immediately available Tuesday.