Opinion: Abuser's request is an insult to victim, women

Steve Rogers
Staff Writer

While legal and within his rights, a wealthy Waynesboro businessman’s efforts to get out of prison while his appeal is pending is a slap in the face to the judicial system and his victim.

During a hearing Friday, 38-year-old Brian Clark asked Circuit Court Judge Jim Kitchens to grant him a bond while Clark appeals the10-year sentence the judge gave Clark in September for bashing in his estranged wife’s skull four years earlier.

The judge hasn't ruled yet.

Clark’s case attracted statewide attention because of his family’s wealth, because his victim is Hope Imes Clark, a well-known Lowndes County woman and Starkville dentist, and because it took his case four years to get to court.

He pleaded guilty on his own and knew at the time the sentence was going to be in the judge’s hands. And he knew he’d been given every possible. So to now think he should get out of prison while he cries to the state Court of Appeals about the length of his sentence is almost criminal itself.

Besides, it’s not like he’s in Parchman. He’s serving his sentence in the Kemper County Correctional Facility.

Clark has only himself to blame for his situation.

He beat his wife, banged her head against a wall, splitting it open to the point it required more than a dozen staples to close the wound, snatched the couple’s child and drove drunk to Waynesboro.

He had previous DUI convictions and while the aggravated domestic violence charge was pending in Lowndes County, a Florida woman with whom he was having a romantic relationship had to take out a restraining order against him.

After he pleaded guilty, Judge Kitchens delayed sentencing to allow him to go through a domestic violence treatment program, but then determined Clark wasn’t sincere during his sentencing hearing.

So when the judge handed down the 10-year sentence – it could have been 20 – Clark’s family money got another lawyer and filed an appeal because they didn’t like the length of the sentence.

I’ve covered a lot of courts and don’t ever remember seeing a suspect jump with joy and give a big “Heck yeah” when the judge sends them to prison.

Clark has a right to appeal. But he should wait out his appeal in the comfort of a jail cell, not his living room.

The Court of Appeals won’t take long to review the judge’s decision, maybe six months. If the ruling comes that soon, Clark hardly will have been in prison a year.

He might as well accept the fact that even if the Court of Appeals rules in his favor, he is going to get some prison time. That time almost certainly will be at least a year so he might as well be banking his time.

In his request for bond, he cites three other cases where people convicted of aggravated assault were granted bonds pending appeal. The key word is convicted. If they were found guilty at trial by a jury, that's different than someone who pleaded guilty, knowing the potential consequences.

Furthermore, he says he would willingly give up his passport and his family would guarantee his presence in court, as it has done during the years leading up to the case finally getting to court.

"Mr. Clark has tremendous support from his family and friends..." he says in his request for appeal. Again, many people in our jails and prisons have the support of -- and love -- of family and friends. But they still are behind bars.

He even offers to pay for his own ankle monitoring device.

It smacks of trying to buy his way out of prison. The vast majority of people sentenced to prison don't have that ability or luxury and Mr. Clark shouldn't be allowed to shake his money in the court's face.

Most importantly, the victim shouldn’t have to be worried about him being out or reliving the memories of her attack. Victims should have the chance to start healing. Letting him out on bond won’t do that. Instead, it will only add insult to injury.

Obviously Mr. Clark and his lawyer aren’t worried about that.

Steve Rogers is the news reporter for the Daily Times Leader. The views expressed in this column are his and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the newspaper or its staff.