Alleged victim testifies in sex-abuse case

BY SAM LANE | FEBRUARY 09, 2010 7:30 AM

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A counselor at Lemme Elementary sexually abused a child at least two times when the boy visited his office, the alleged victim testified Monday.

“I was scared, and I took what adults said,” the alleged victim said. “I was scared he was going to hurt me or my parents.”

The boy, now a teen, was the first witness in the jury trial of former counselor Donald Clark, a Coralville man accused of second-degree sexual abuse, stemming from an alleged incident in the spring of 2004. If convicted, he could face up to 25 years in prison.

A tense Clark sat silently as the alleged victim testified.

Staring directly at his questioner, the alleged victim spoke quietly, recalling the difficulties he said he has faced.

During the alleged victim’s fifth grade year at Lemme Elementary, 3100 E. Washington St., he visited Clark once or twice a week, according to his testimony. But, during the second semester of that year, the relationship between Clark and the alleged victim changed.

On at least two separate occasions, when the minor visited Clark’s office, the then-41-year-old allegedly performed sex acts upon him. On both occasions, Clark made some attempt to quiet to him, he testified. For five years, the alleged victim did not tell anyone about the incidents.

The alleged victim’s parents worried about his academic performance throughout elementary school. He was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder and tried medication, but his parents took him off the drugs, his mother testified Monday.

Michael Kelley, a former principal at Lemme, said the alleged victim spent time in a special-education program, but administrators decided he no longer needed it. After discussions with school officials, the young man’s parents decided to schedule periodic meetings between him and Clark, his mother said.

“He was a nice, ordinary guy,” the alleged victim testified about Clark.

But his condition only worsened after fifth grade.

“He was more withdrawn,” his mother said. “He was angry, frustrated easily and more reserved.”

This downward trend continued and the alleged victim fell into a world of drugs and depression, his father said.

Roughly nine months ago, his parents sent their son to a boarding school. Soon after the alleged victim arrived at the school, a group therapy session prompted him to send a letter to his parents outlining alleged incidents of sexual abuse, though the defense attorney noted the letter didn’t name Clark directly.

The alleged victim is still enrolled at the boarding school.

“We didn’t get to see [him] for several months,” said the alleged victim’s mother, who fought back tears when discussing the lengthy period. “He’s got a long way to go, but he’s improved.”

The trial will reconvene at 9 a.m. today; it is expected to last until Wednesday.

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