And we have innocent people sitting in jail right now…….
A man who walked into the Twin Falls Police Department last year and confessed to molesting a teenager and having temptations to molest elementary school children has pleaded guilty to a felony but could avoid prison.
Michael Scott Clark, 29, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a reduced felony count of sexual abuse of a child under the age of 16 years, which carries a maximum penalty not to exceed 25 years in prison. He was originally charged last year with lewd conduct with a minor under 16, which carries up to a lifetime sentence.
As part of a plea agreement, Clark pleaded guilty to the lesser charge and admitted to having “oral to genital contact” with the girl, Gooding County Deputy Prosecutor Trevor Misseldine said. The victim was 13 at the time.
Clark will have to register as a sex offender, but he could avoid prison. Terms of the plea agreement stipulate that prosecutors and defense attorneys can argue for the sentence they think is appropriate, and prosecutors plan to seek a 10-year prison sentence with a retained jurisdiction, Misseldine said.
A retained jurisdiction sentence, commonly known as a rider, is a therapeutic and educational program directed by the Idaho Department of Correction. Based on his performance in the program, Clark could be released on parole after successful completion of the rider or be compelled to serve the full 10-year prison sentence if he performs poorly.
Riders can last between three months and one year, but Misseldine said he doesn’t know how long Clark’s would be.
Clark first admitted to molesting the 13-year-old girl last March, several years after the actual abuse happened, court documents said. He told a Twin Falls officer it happened in June 2012 while he was living in Bliss.
He also admitted to touching his victim’s 11-year-old sister over her clothes.
He then told the officer “he was having temptations to engage in those acts again but with random children and that they would not be voluntary,” court documents said. He said he lived near Perrine Elementary School and that his urges were getting worse for several months.
The sisters were taken for interviews with Children At Risk Evaluation Services, or CARES, which is standard in child molestation cases.
The 13-year-old girl and Clark both said the girl told her mother about the abuse around the time it happened, but the mother never told authorities.
A jury trial for Clark was scheduled for later this month, but he pleaded guilty Tuesday during a pretrial conference. He’s been ordered to undergo a psychosexual evaluation and his sentencing is scheduled for May 10.