CONEJOS — Jack Clark has been in jail for more than 500 days awaiting trial on sexual assault charges; now, he will have 48 years in prison to think about what he did to get there.
He was arrested Nov. 11, 2010 by the La Jara Police Department on charges relating to alleged sexual assault of three young girls and pleaded guilty March 30, 2017 to one count of kidnapping, a class 2 felony, in order to take advantage of plea agreements offered at the time.
During a lengthy sentencing hearing presided over by 12th Judicial District Chief Judge Pattie Swift, the 35-year-old Clark heard statements of evidence from 12th Judicial District Attorney Crista Newmyer-Olsen, Deputy Attorney General Cynthia Kowert and Public Defender Amanda Hopkins.
Emotional testimony was heard from the parent of one victim and the guardian of the others. Both stated that the girls have a mental burden that they will carry for the rest of their lives.
One girl can’t understand the things that happened to her, her guardian said. “It’s hard for her to trust other people.”
Kowert commented, “Others may have been harmed that we don’t know about.”
The mother of another victim said her child suffers from depression. “Her life is stuck there,” she told the court. “This shattered part of her childhood. It is destroyed. This is not fair.”
Asking that Clark be sent to prison, she told the court “He could harm, not only our family, but any other family that would be involved with him would be at risk.”
The oldest of the girls was 13 and Kowert told the court Clark “established trust in her so he could sexually abuse her.”
“He sexually abused three young girls over a five-year period.”
Devices taken into evidence from Clark included an iPhone, a cell phone and a computer that contained child pornography. “Those children were also victims,” Kowert told the court.
While Clark’s adult criminal record shows no sex offenses, she said, his juvenile record shows several crimes, along with methamphetamine use. She argued for a 48-year sentence in the Department of Corrections (DOC).
Hopkins asked for a 25-year sentence, pointing out that Clark was aware of the harm he did to his young victims, since he was a victim of similar crimes as a child.
Because of this, Hopkins said, Clark fully intends to take advantage of programs in the DOC that will help him understand what he has done and why he chose to act like that.
“He regrets his actions may have the same effect on another child.”
Hopkins said Clark “is prepared to spend the rest of his life learning to deal with the effects on himself and children.”
She said Clark wasn’t the only person to harm children. “Other adults were fully participating.” An addiction to methamphetamines played a big role in his actions, other court reports indicated.
They other adults were not named and did not speak for or against Clark.
“He has convictions on his record, but nothing like this,” Hopkins told the court. “He, more than anyone else in this room, wants to know how he got to this place… and help others who are in similar places.”
In rebuttal, Kowert referred to state statutes defining sexually violent predators and contended the older victim was a stranger Clark had groomed for sexual abuse and that is covered by the statute.
Hopkins said the victim was not a stranger, but a friend of the family who had been to the home many times.
Pondering the evidence, Judge Swift said that many times a judge is in the middle of a situation and, “when I look at both sides… when I look at the serious damage caused… I am sorry about what happened to you as a child. I am sorry you got addicted to methamphetamines.
“Nothing I have heard today gives me confidence that when you get out of prison, you won’t do the same thing again.”
Judge Swift did say, however, that she didn’t view Clark as a sexually violent predator.
She said given the case and Clark’s prior record, “the harm caused in the case and the specifics to you, the court must impose 48 years in the Department of Corrections.”
A three-year sentence in another, unrelated case will run concurrently and the judge ordered seven years total of supervised parole, should it be granted.
Clark was given credit for 510 days in custody awaiting trial and, since Clark is in custody and indigent, Judge Swift waived court costs and fees, as well as restitution. A protection order issued earlier will remain in effect throughout the sentence and Clark will not be allowed to contact any victims or adults involved in the case.
Newmyer-Olsen said there are expenses being incurred by the young victims and one of them had to discontinue counseling because her mother could no longer afford it. There are some sources of financial help and the DA asked the restitution order remain open for that.
The judge agreed to leave restitution open for 90 days.
“There is nothing the court can do to give back to the children what they have lost,” she observed.
Clark was remanded to the Conejos County Sheriff to await transfer to the DOC.
After court, Kowert said that, while she did most of the arguing, Newmyer-Olsen did all of the work.