YOUNGSTOWN Man pleads guilty in child-sex case

The charge was reduced from rape.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Prosecutors are recommending probation and counseling for an East Dewey Avenue man who pleaded guilty Monday to having illegal sexual contact with a 5-year-old girl.
Charles Clark, 44, pleaded to one count of attempted gross sexual imposition, a fifth-degree felony, for which he could be sentenced to up to 12 months in prison. He could also be placed on probation.
Assistant Prosecutor Deena Calabrese recommended a three-year term of probation, but Judge James C. Evans of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court delayed sentencing until after a background check by the Ohio Adult Parole Authority.
Under Ohio law, judges have the final say on sentencing regardless of recommendations from lawyers.
Clark was indicted by a county grand jury in May 1998 on a charge of rape, a first-degree felony that could have brought up to 10 years in a penitentiary. Calabrese said the facts of the case warranted the significant reduction.
"I believe that in the interest of justice, this plea agreement is appropriate," Calabrese said.
Judge Evans agreed after hearing background from Calabrese and defense attorney Damian Billak.
Circumstances of case
Calabrese said the victim is a daughter of one of Clark's former girlfriends. The girl is learning-disabled and had difficulty providing reliable information about what happened, which was one reason for the reduction and for the long delay in resolving the case.
Another reason was that the girl and her mother lead a "somewhat transient existence," Calabrese said. She was unable to locate them for long stretches of time, making it difficult to build a case for trial.
"There are some obvious proof problems," Billak said, noting that he believes the final resolution is fair.

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