Nicolas A. Clark, a former local youth football coach, was found guilty Thursday on a dozen charges including child molestation and possession of child pornography, following a bench trial. But the judge decided Clark was not guilty of the more serious charge of child rape.
Clark County Superior Court Judge John Fairgrieve said he could not find beyond a reasonable doubt that Clark raped his victim or intended to commit rape. Fairgrieve said he watched a three-second video clip associated with the charge, and also looked at an image several times, and decided it was unclear whether penetration or contact occurred.
The prosecution urged the court to decide on a charge of attempted first-degree child rape if Clark was found not guilty of first-degree child rape. Fairgrieve said he could not find beyond a reasonable doubt that Clark was trying to rape the child, but it was clear he was producing child pornography given other evidence in the case.
Clark was found guilty on all other charges: 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.
Deputy Prosecutor Caitlin Cushing said Clark engaged in witness tampering when he communicated to his wife she was not obligated to testify. Cushing told the judge during her opening statement that she learned about the communication Sunday.
The judge said he was persuaded to find Clark guilty of witness tampering because of the timing of his communication, which included telling his wife he was facing 18 years in prison.
“The intent was to induce (his wife) to withhold testimony,” Fairgrieve said.
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 the victim was not one of his players.
Cushing did not note any additional victims during her opening statement.
After reviewing all of the evidence presented during the non-jury trial, Fairgrieve said he was convinced Clark committed 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’s sentencing is set for Nov. 25. Cushing said in an email that because the judge found two aggravating factors, the state can ask for a longer prison term. The statutory maximum on first-degree child molestation is life imprisonment. She said she does not yet know what the recommended sentence will be.