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Sexual assault trial of local therapist to resume Monday

LAWRENCEVILLE -- After a jury stalemate led to a mistrial in March, the sexual assault trial of Lilburn psychotherapist Cliff Tillery will begin round two on Monday.

Tillery, the owner of Bright Horizons Inc., is accused of coercing the alleged female victim -- a Gwinnett preschool teacher with a history of alcohol and sexual abuse, she testified in March -- into sexual activity more than 20 times at his Norcross office in 2007.

The 46-year-old, a 20-year veteran of psychotherapy, was arrested in July 2008 before being released on $55,200 bond.

A hung jury led Superior Court Judge Melodie Snell Conner to declare a mistrial after 11/2 days of deliberation on March 14.

The case hinges on the determination of the boundary between therapists and patients.

The prosecution believes that Tillery preyed on the 32-year-old alleged victim's psychological wounds to benefit sexually during sessions for which she typically paid $85 an hour.

The defense contends that she flirted with and seduced Tillery.

In the days leading up to the trial, the alleged victim told the Daily Post that she felt brainwashed by Tillery and wouldn't have considered him as a sexual partner in another situation.

Both Tillery and the former patient were married with children at the time of the alleged abuse.

According to Georgia statute, a conviction of sexual assault by a psychotherapist could result in a prison sentence of between 10 and 30 years. Consent cannot be used as a defense, the law says.