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Friday, September 22, 2023
Sept. 22, 2023

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Former youth football coach gets 21 years for child molestation

Other charges key part of sentencing, prosecutor says

By , Columbian Breaking News Reporter

Nicolas A. Clark, a former local youth football coach, was sentenced Monday to 21 1/2 years in prison on a dozen charges, including child molestation and possession of child pornography.

Clark, 41, was found guilty following a bench trial in September. Clark County Superior Court Judge John Fairgrieve found Clark was not guilty of more serious charges of child rape or attempted rape, because he could not find beyond a reasonable doubt that Clark raped his victim or intended to commit rape.

Still, Deputy Prosecutor Caitlin Cushing argued for a longer-than-usual sentence in the case. Cushing said in a phone interview Tuesday that an exceptional sentence was warranted given the high number of charges Clark was convicted of following the trial.

The standard prison sentence for the most serious charge Clark was convicted on, child molestation, is 149 to 198 months.

The charges were three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, two counts of first-degree child molestation, six counts of possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct and one count of tampering with a witness.

The prosecutor also included victim impact statements from children, now adults, depicted in child pornography Clark had collected. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children provided the statements.

It was important to include the statements to emphasize that downloading and sharing child pornography is not a victimless crime, Cushing said, adding that it’s a point the prosecution is more regularly trying to get across in court.

Clark was arrested in October 2018 after authorities received word over the summer about a user on Tumblr, a blogging and social media networking site, who was sharing child pornography, according to court records. Police traced account data to Clark’s home in Camas and his cellphone.

Cushing said 90 to 95 percent of the child pornography discovered by police in the course of their investigation was found on Clark’s cellphone, which was secured to his waist when he was taken into custody on his doorstep

During his initial court appearance, the prosecution noted that Clark coached children ages 6 to 8 through Clark County Youth Football. The sports program told The Columbian that Clark coached fourth- and fifth-graders and that he was immediately removed upon learning of the allegations.

In December, detectives working on Clark’s pending child pornography case found video and images of Clark abusing a child, according to court records. Clark knew the victim, the records say, but the victim was not one of his players. Investigators did not discover any additional local victims.

After reviewing all of the evidence presented during the nonjury trial, Fairgrieve said he was convinced Clark committed the majority of the crimes outlined in the state’s allegations. He also found aggravating circumstances for the two child molestation charges because Clark took advantage of a position of trust.

Clark did not speak during his sentencing, according to Cushing. He has already served about a year in jail, she said.

But in a written statement to the court, Clark wrote, “I can understand the court’s proclivity to want to give me the harshest punishment possible. I want to assure the court that in my humble opinion an extremely severe punishment has already been delivered,” and continued on to detail being cut off from his children and wife. He also asked the judge to suspend his sentence and impose an alternative punishment.

When released from prison, Clark will be on community custody for the rest of his life, court records say.

Columbian Breaking News Reporter