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Former counselor convicted of sexual abuse ordered to pay restitution

Donald Clark talks to his attorney, John Robertson, before his sentencing hearing at the Johnson County Courthouse on Th
Donald Clark talks to his attorney, John Robertson, before his sentencing hearing at the Johnson County Courthouse on Thursday, Mar. 18, 2010 in Iowa City (John Richard/Freelance)

A former Iowa City elementary guidance counselor convicted of sexually abusing a fifth grader in 2003 was recently ordered by a judge to pay more than $67,000 in victimís restitution.

The victimís parents went through their savings, 401k accounts and sold their house, so they could pay for a special boarding school and other educational services to help their son.

The youth developed behavioral issues in fifth grade, after he was regularly being taken out of class by his counselor, Donald Clark, 41, who was sexually abusing him,† according to trial testimony.

Clark was convicted in February for second-degree sexual abuse and sentenced to 25 years in prison for abusing the Lemme Elementary fifth grader during the 2003-2004 school year.

The victimís mother testified during a restitution hearing in September that her son continued to have behavioral issues through middle and high school, such as acting out, being aggressive and eventually started cutting himself, using drugs and attempted suicide more than once.

The mother said she didnít know about the sexual abuse until they took him out of a regular high school and enrolled him into Midwest Academy, a strict boarding school for youth with behavior problems and substance abuse issues near Keokuk.

The father testified they went through their savings and had to sell their house to pay for counseling and the academy for their son. He and his wife ended up divorcing over the emotional stress of the situation.

ďThis took my wife, my home, my sonís innocence,Ē the father said.

Clark disputed the restitution claim because he maintains his innocence of the crime and his attorney questioned the youthís problems stemmed from being sexually abused.

Most of the restitution claim granted is for the boarding school tuition of $48,755. The rest includes other costs associated with the boarding school and educational resources tuition that provided additional academic help while the youth was being home schooled. The total was $67,150.

Victimís restitution can be ordered in all criminal cases where a defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty to compensate the victim for loss suffered as a direct result of the criminal activity, according to Iowa Code. This sanction ďforces the offender to answer directly for the consequences of his or her actions.Ē

The question is whether the parents will ever receive the money, since Clark will be in prison for at least, the next 17 years before heís eligible for parole.

The Department of Corrections seizes 20 percent of everything an inmate receives in prison if they owe victimís restitution, said Marti Anderson, director of Crime Victimís Assistance with the Iowa Attorney Generalís Office.

Anderson said the department can also seize 20 percent of their wages they make in prison, any Social Security or disability they might receive, and when they get out of prison their wages can be garnished and there can be liens against their property.

ďItís not very successful but somewhat successful,Ē Anderson said. ďItís a slow process. I think if some criminals understood the extent of damage they inflict (financially and emotionally) on someone, they might not do it.Ē

The crime assistance program can reimburse some of the out of pocket expenses for victims such as, up to $25,000 medical, $7,500 for funeral, $1,000 crime scene clean-up, $5,000 counseling and $6,000 for loss wages, Anderson said. All these expenses have to be a direct result from the crime.

The program funding is a combination from state and federal money, and criminal fines and penalties help support it, Anderson said. There is no tax money included in this fund.

Since the Attorney Generalís Office took over the program in 1989† and dedicated a staff for it $650,000 has been recovered from offenders. The office doesnít track how many victims get reimbursed or how much of the ordered restitution they actually receive.

The Iowa Department of Corrections has had 24,034 restitution plans in the system since 2007 and more than $4.9 million has been collected since that time, Fred Scaletta, spokesman, said. An inmate could have more than one restitution plan, so there could be less inmates than 24,034.The plans include ordered victimís restitution and any court costs and attorney fees,† accessed to the offenders, Scaletta said. The department doesnít break down that number.

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