WEST CHESTER — Alan Clifford Coleman may have shown admirable paternal instincts in trying to keep his daughter away from a convicted sex offender who his ex-girlfriend had taken up with. But the way he went about it landed him in Chester County Prison and, on Monday, with an appearance in front of a Chester County Court judge.
According to court records and a description of his case, Coleman stabbed himself in the shoulder, chest and face multiple times with a box cutter and then blamed the wounds on an attack by a Phoenixville man, John Scott Selfinger.
Police became suspicious of Coleman’s report in part because he showed no signs of defensive wounds but also because Coleman’s girlfriend insisted he was making the story up. After checking with Selfinger, the alleged attacker, they were able to determine that he was miles away from Coleman’s home when he was supposed to be stabbing him.
Coleman, 35, of Phoenixville, pleaded guilty to charges of false reports to police and was sentenced to 60 days to 23 months in county prison.
He told President Judge James P. MacElree II, who accepted the plea bargain hammered out between Assistant Public Defender Meredith Copeland, Coleman’s attorney, and Assistant District Attorney Sean Poll, that he was intoxicated when he stabbed himself and reported the fake attack to police.
But he said that he had grown concerned about the relationship that had developed between his then-girlfriend, Tasia Chuko, and Selfinger, and the danger it might pose to his daughter. He said Selfinger had served nine years in state prison for sexually assaulting a young girl.
In fact, Selfinger is a registered sex offender, having been convicted of aggravated sexual assault in Montgomery County in 1999. He is a lifetime registrant.
According to an arrest affidavit filed by Sgt. Brian Marshall of Phoenixville police, patrol officers had been sent to Coleman’s Bridge Avenue apartment about 7:45 p.m. on Sept. 4 for the report of a stabbing. Officers found Coleman, who gave them a description of Selfinger, with several cuts.
The most serious was a stab wound in his left shoulder, a cut that curved toward his chest. He also had superficial wounds to his face and other cuts to his chest. Coleman told police he was inside his apartment when he heard a knock at the door, and that when he opened it Selfinger attacked him with a box cutter.
Police found the box cutter in the apartment, with Coleman saying he had been able to knock it from his assailant’s hand.
But at the scene, one of the borough officers interviewed Chuko, who said she had a 1-year-old daughter with Coleman. She told the officer that Coleman “needs to see a psych doctor, and that he did it to himself.” Selfinger, she said, was never on the property.
When police later interviewed Selfinger, he insisted that he had been in West Chester and Downingtown when the alleged assault took place. He admitted that he and Chuko had had a recent affair, but said he had not been at the apartment that day and had not attacked Coleman.
When police checked Selfinger’s cell phone records, they were able to trace it to locations in Downingtown at the time of the alleged assault. A videotape from a home supply store in Downingtown also showed Sefinger was there until about 7:35 p.m. that day.
MacElree, who termed Coleman’s behavior “stupid,” said that the plan he conceived to keep Selfinger away had backfired.
“Now you are the one who’s going to jail. Maybe you ought to give up drinking,” MacElree advised.