LONDON (AP) — Max Clifford, the influential British publicist best known for managing the reputations of celebrities, was sentenced Friday to eight years in prison for a string of indecent assaults on four women.
The public relations guru was the first person to be convicted under a nationwide police inquiry into historic sexual offenses sparked by the abuse scandal surrounding late BBC entertainer Jimmy Savile.
Clifford, 71, has represented Simon Cowell, of "American Idol" and "The X Factor" fame, and advised countless others in the entertainment world in his decades-long career. He was convicted Monday of eight counts of indecent assault on victims aged between 15 and 18 at the time of offense in the 1970s and '80s.
Judge Anthony Leonard said that although the offenses took place a long time ago — when inappropriate sexual behavior was more likely to be tolerated — Clifford's offenses were of a very serious nature.
Leonard said some of the offenses could be charged as rape if they took place today, and that Clifford should serve at least half of his total sentence in jail. During the trial, prosecutors described Clifford as a manipulator who used his celebrity connections to lure young girls, promising them prominent acting roles in exchange for sexual favors.
Clifford had denied all the charges and said his accusers were fantasists. Officials said they hoped Clifford's conviction and sentencing will encourage sex abuse victims to come forward. Clifford's trial followed the arrests of other high-profile show business figures accused of sex abuse dating back decades.
The investigations, under a police probe "Operation Yewtree," were triggered after BBC presenter Savile was revealed to be a prolific sexual predator who used his fame to target hundreds of teenagers over five decades. The allegations only surfaced after Savile died in October 2011.