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Priest Sentenced For Sexual Abuse

Aug 14, 2003 | The Courier-Journal

A Bullitt County judge sentenced the Rev. Daniel Clark to a 10-year prison sentence yesterday, saying the maximum sentence was needed to protect the public from the "substantial risk" posed by the repeat sex offender.

Clark, a Roman Catholic priest who was convicted on two counts of sexual abuse in June for molesting two Bullitt County boys in a family he befriended, made no statement and showed no emotion as he appeared in an orange jail jumpsuit at the brief sentencing hearing.

Bullitt Circuit Court Judge Thomas L. Waller said Clark "failed to benefit" from probation for a 1988 conviction in Jefferson County on similar charges. In that case, he was sentenced to 15 years but was instead required to serve 90 days in prison followed by five years of probation.

"The court is of the opinion that the imprisonment of this defendant is necessary for the protection of the public," Waller said. "The court believes there is a substantial risk that the defendant will commit another crime."

Yet even with the sentence the maximum possible under the charges for which he was convicted — Clark will be eligible for parole next August. Clark will get credit for serving a year in jail before his sentencing.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Nick Raley said a confidential pre-sentencing mental-health evaluation concluded that Clark posed a low to moderate risk of re-offending.

JOETTA BLAIR, a member of The Linkup, an advocacy group for victims of sexual abuse, applauded the sentence and said her group would oppose any parole for Clark.

"We're not going to let this guy get out in a year," said Blair, who was herself a victim of abuse in the early 1960s. "He needs to serve the whole 10 years."

Waller's decision echoed the recommendation of the jury that convicted Clark on June 26. The jury recommended that the priest serve consecutive five-year sentences for each of his offenses. The jury acquitted Clark on a more serious sodomy charge.

Raley also urged the maximum, citing Clark's record. "If he had served (the full 1988 sentence), perhaps he would not have been free to victimize another generation of children," he said.

The Bullitt County jury convicted Clark of abusing two boys between 1988 and May 2002. Clark denied abusing them, though he admitted violating terms of his probation that barred unsupervised contact with minors.

In his 1988 conviction, Clark pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two boys in the early 1980s at St. Rita Catholic Church, where he was an associate pastor.

AFTER CLARK'S conviction, Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly removed the priest from all official assignments. Clark, who was living at a monastery until his arrest last year, continued to volunteer with various organizations, some of which were unaware of his past conviction.

Under stricter rules for sexual offenders adopted by Catholic bishops last year, Kelly removed Clark from all ministry, though Clark remains a priest.

The Archdiocese of Louisville plans to file a report to the Vatican on Clark's case for consideration of whether Clark should be removed from the priesthood, according to church spokeswoman Cecelia Price. The archdiocese will file that report after the last pending civil lawsuit involving Clark is resolved, she said.

Clark was accused of sexual abuse in 19 lawsuits filed against the archdiocese since April 2002.

All plaintiffs except one, Kyle Burden, who is seeking a trial in his lawsuit, were among 243 victims who reached a $25.7million settlement with the archdiocese in June.

The two Bullitt County victims in Clark's criminal case, now ages 12 and 13, are among those sharing in the settlement. Raley said they chose not to appear at the sentencing hearing.

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