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Former youth football coach’s child sex abuse trial begins

At the start of Tuesday’s bench trial for a former local youth football coach, a prosecutor said what could have been a typical child pornography case veered when detectives realized some of the seized images showed the defendant committing child sexual abuse.

“Pandora’s box was opened and the case turned into something much larger,” Deputy Prosecutor Caitlin Cushing said.

Nicolas A. Clark, 41, is facing one count of first-degree rape of a child, three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, two counts of first-degree child molestation and six counts of possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Clark waived his right to have a jury hear the case. Instead, Clark County Superior Court Judge John Fairgrieve will decide his fate.

An additional charge was added on the eve of Clark’s trial. Cushing told Fairgrieve that Clark engaged in witness tampering when he communicated to his wife that she was not obligated to testify. The prosecution said it learned about the communication Sunday.

Cushing’s opening statement focused largely on the allegations laid out in court documents filed in October and December.

Clark was arrested in October 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 that the victim was not one of his players.

Cushing did not note any additional victims during her opening statement. She said she planned to call up to 10 witnesses to testify, and the trial will likely wrap up Wednesday.

“It will be very clear (by the end of the trial) that all of the images belonged to the defendant, and he has been engaging in the collection and production of child porn for some time,” Cushing said.

Defense attorney Steve Thayer chose not to give an opening statement.

In the first couple hours of the trial, Clark sat at the defense table, wearing plainclothes. He appeared much thinner than he’d been when arrested last year. He said little beyond confirming that he wanted a bench trial.


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