ROCKAWAY, Ore. -- A Rockaway Police officer and high school softball coach pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution and tampering with evidence after being charged with inappropriate behavior with a young girl on his softball team.
Aaron Clark, 28, had been a Rockaway Beach police officer since 2005. He was also a softball coach at Neah-Kah-Nie High School when one of his players told school staff about the alleged relationship last summer.
Prosecutors said Clark directed the girl to take inappropriate pictures of herself and send them to him. They said he then threw an iPod, iPhone and iPad into the Pacific Ocean because the pictures were stored there.
There were a lot of allegations made against the victim and her family, Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis said. He pled guilty. Let's be real clear, he said he did it. You've got the plea petition that he signed under oath.
Clark was initially facing other charges including encouraging child sexual abuse, but prosecutors said Clark made the plea deal because he did not want to have to register as a sex offender.
I'm most happy because that victim is not going to have to get up there on the witness stand and get torn to shreds by a good defense attorney; something that would have affected her the rest of her life, Marquis said.
It's affected everybody just because of the whole trust factor, victim supporter Wendy Pickett said. This guy was a police officer and also a softball coach. (He was) someone that all the kids looked up to. He was present at the school everyday and well-known to all the kids.
You question who to trust now, said Neah-Kah-Nie High School sophomore Andrews Smith said. Me and my brothers. We all just trusted him and thought he was a good guy. (Clark) was an easy person to trust; very likable.
It was very surprising for everybody. The whole community was stunned by it. I think it's really brave of the victim to come forward and make it known and her primary purpose was so that it doesn't happen again, Pickett said.
Clark will now have to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation and he will never again be a police officer. Clark's wife Jennifer faced one count of tampering with evidence.