The now 17-year-old sat in the front row of the courtroom — her dad over one shoulder, her mom over the other.
The parents who had tried to prevent harm to their daughter were now comforting her as she confronted the man who scarred her childhood.
Her lower lip quivering, the girl ripped at any notion that her former softball coach was sorry for grooming her into a sexual relationship. She noted that Daryl Clark, 47, had pleaded no contest to two charges — which means he simply didn’t contest the charges,rather than admitting his guilt. She blistered him for manipulating her from age 14 on, and for the promises that he would one day marry her.
And she gave an ultimatum to Judge Duane Dougherty: Impose a sentence of 52 years.
“If you give him anything less than (that), you are basically saying that you don’t care if it happens again,” the girl said. “You’re putting another person at risk of having to go through what I’ve gone through. And nobody should have to go through what I’ve gone through.”
On the other side, Clark’s attorney, Glenn Shapiro, noted that his client was being sentenced for enticing a child by electronic device and for attempting to manufacture child pornography. He was not being sentenced for having sex with the girl because, although Clark been grooming the girl, he waited until she was 16 — the age of consent in Nebraska and Iowa — to have sex with her.
“Does Mr. Clark have many moral issues to deal with? Of course he does,” Shapiro said. “But we are not the morality police.”
Dougherty arrived at a sentence smack dab in the middle of the sentencing range — slapping a 25- to 30-year sentence on the former Monroe and Beveridge Middle School teacher . Under state law, Clark will be eligible for parole after 12½ years; absent parole, he must serve 15 years.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said prosecutors were disappointed in the sentence. One thing that troubled Kleine: that Dougherty ran Clark’s two-year sentence for enticement at the same time as his sentence for attempting to manufacture child pornography. Such a move spared Clark an additional year in prison.
Kleine said he had hoped Dougherty would give a sentence more toward the maximum.
“There’s no excuse, there’s no mitigation, there’s no rationalization for what this ... man (did to) this girl,” Kleine said. ”We believe it should have been a greater sentence.”
Prosecutor Beth Beninato detailed what the girl and her parents had endured. Clark, who had coached the couple’s daughter through the Echoes softball club in Papillion, began building a bond with her by offering to take her to and from events, Beninato said.
Mom had once called Clark, asking him to stop sending texts to her daughter and instead communicate with her or her husband. Clark said he would abide by that, then continued to groom the girl and ignore her parents, Beninato said.
Eventually on one trip with the girl in a car, he pulled off into a church parking lot and kissed her. Later, he talked about how his marriage was dead and he hoped to one day marry her. Then he sent her sexually explicit text messages and got her to send him pictures of her breasts.
The judge noted one particularly disturbing detail. When Clark was arrested, investigators searched his car and found a note with the girl’s handwriting on it. On it she had made two lists — one list of where Clark wanted to have sex and one of where she wanted to have sex. The two had crossed off places on the list.
And the judge said he couldn’t imagine the scene that had exposed Clark: The mother came home to find Clark and her then-16-year-old daughter having sex.
Clark had jumped out of bed. His first comment: “Please don’t tell my family. I’ll pay for counseling.”
As the judge recounted the scene, the girl dabbed away tears. Her mother threw her head back, furiously blinking to try to keep her own tears at bay. She lost.
“There is more harm than just the assault,” Dougherty said. “It’s the stealing of (her childhood) ... (This) will get better with treatment. But it’ll never be repaired.
“We can’t get youth back.”