Former priest's plea deal allows him to avoid more prison time

Published: Jan. 11, 2008 at 5:30 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 5, 2008 at 12:38 PM EST
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By Elizabeth Donatelli

LOUISVILLE (WAVE) -- A former priest accused of molesting two young boys in Bullitt County was sentenced Friday. Even though the victims told the judge they agree with the decision, some in the courtroom feel he should serve more time. WAVE 3's Elizabeth Donatelli was there.

Former Catholic Priest Daniel Clark admitted there is enough evidence for a jury to find him guilty by entering an Alford plea, but he won't serve another day in prison.

Clark was found guilty of sexually abusing two boys under the age of 12 between 1999 and May of 2002. The defense appealed. His conviction was overturned by the Kentucky Supreme Court in June of 2007 because of improper testimony regarding a prior conviction of a sex offense.

Seven months later, a Bullitt County Circuit Judge sentenced him again as a part of a plea deal.

"The court is going to reluctantly accept the recommendation of the Commonwealth in this case," Judge Rodney Burress said. "Many times, we have victims who go through the system and continue to be victimized through the situation and that is not the intention of the judicial system."

By agreeing to a plea deal, the victims won't have to testify again.

"In keeping with their wish not to do that again, we fashioned a sentence which first was acceptable to them," said prosecutor Michael Ferguson.

Clark will now be on probation after serving four years and 10 months of a 10-year sentence.

Father Gary Hayes, who belongs to a victims' group, says he was sexually abused by two priests when he was a teenager. He says you never get over it, but you learn to cope.

"You re-experience the trauma every time you are back in this kind of situation and so it doesn't go away," Hayes said. "The pain resurfaces. So it's extremely difficult."

Clark will be under court supervision for the next 10 years and has to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Online Reporter: Elizabeth Donatelli

Online Producer: Michael Dever