Priest convicted of sexual abuse

Associated Press/June 27, 2003
By Bruce Schreiner

Shepherdsville, Ky. -- A Roman Catholic priest was convicted Thursday of sexually abusing two young boys from a family he befriended years ago.

The Rev. Daniel Clark was found guilty by a Bullitt County Circuit jury of two counts of first-degree sexual abuse. The jury acquitted Clark on one sodomy charge.

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for about five hours over two days after the two-day trial that began Tuesday.

Clark, 55, looked down and showed no emotion as the verdict was read by Judge Thomas Waller. Clark later clasped hands with two women seated behind him, one of which was his sister.

The jury later recommended that Clark serve five years in prison on each of the sexual abuse counts to be served consecutively -- the maximum possible sentence.

Waller set final sentencing for Aug. 13. Clark will remain in the Bullitt County jail, where he has been held since his arrest last August.

If the judge accepts the jury's recommendation, Clark would have to serve one year in prison before being eligible for parole.

During the brief sentencing hearing, prosecutor Michael Mann recommended the maximum sentence, noting Clark's previous conviction on sex-related charges in the late 1980s.

"This defendant, more so than any other, needs to be in prison," said Mann, the Bullitt County commonwealth's attorney.

Mann said the maximum sentence was needed to keep Clark in prison for as long as possible so he would not abuse again.

"He had a chance to rehabilitate himself," Mann said. "He had a chance to change and he didn't."

Defense attorney David Lambertus did not ask for a certain sentence, and said he would not beg the jury.

Lambertus declined comment afterward, as did Clark's sister.

Mann seemed a bit perplexed by the split verdict.

"I don't know if it was a compromise among the jurors about what they were going to find him guilty on, or if they thought there was a proof problem" on the sodomy charge, the prosecutor said.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville issued a brief statement, saying it hoped the verdict "brings a just resolution for all of those involved in this tragic situation."

Sue Archibald, president of The Linkup, an advocacy group for clergy abuse victims, said she had mixed feelings about the verdict. Archibald, who attended much of the trial, said the conviction on the sexual abuse charges was "vindication" for the victims. She expressed disappointment that Clark won't face a longer prison sentence.

The two young victims, who are brothers, testified they were abused by Clark in their home and on outings with the priest.

Clark took the witness stand in his own defense, denying that he had molested the boys.

Prosecutors said the abuse took place over a four-year period ending in 2002. The boys are now 13 and 12. An additional sodomy charge was dropped shortly before the trial began.

The boys' mother testified she had known Clark since her youth and considered him a father-like figure.

Clark was a regular visitor to the boys' home and often took them to outings such as football practice and skating.

The priest also helped out the family financially as well. He made payments on the family's trailer and bought them food and toys.

Clark pleaded guilty in 1988 to sodomy and sexual abuse for molesting two boys at St. Rita Catholic Church in Louisville, where he was assistant pastor. He served 90 days in jail on a work-release program and five years' probation. One of those victims testified at this week's trial.

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