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Former Proctor teacher pleads guilty to sexual assault

Todd Clark faces a presumptive prison term, but will be able to argue for probation.

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DULUTH — A longtime Northland teacher and coach admitted Thursday to sexually assaulting a former student on numerous occasions over the course of a year.

Todd Robert Clark, 52, pleaded guilty to a felony count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct at a virtual hearing in State District Court in Duluth. Clark was, until his arrest last August, an eighth grade algebra teacher at A.I. Jedlicka Middle School in Proctor.

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Todd Robert Clark

Clark faces a presumptive 57-month prison term under state sentencing guidelines, but will be free to argue for a departure to probation when he appears for sentencing June 20.

Under questioning from defense attorney Mikkel Long, Clark acknowledged developing a relationship and engaging in sexual conduct with the girl starting when she was 15 years old. He admitted to using his hand to inappropriately touch her on more than one instance inside a car, under circumstances that Long said could be defined as coercion.

Because of the girl's age, and the fact that Clark was in a position of authority, the victim had no ability to grant consent and the acts constitute sexual assault.

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Court documents state that the victim reported the conduct to another teacher in early August, later telling police that Clark had begun "touching and kissing her" about twice a week starting when she was 15.

The longtime educator and basketball coach allegedly exchanged emails and gave rides to the victim, steadily escalating the sexual abuse before trying to coerce the girl into remaining silent.

According to a criminal complaint, Clark and the victim began communicating frequently over the summer after she was in his eighth grade class and would meet up frequently, often going for car rides.

The touching escalated over the course of about a year before Clark broke off the relationship, citing guilt for his family, the charges said.

Authorities said Clark later made a series of statements threatening suicide if the girl were to report the incidents, and he was hospitalized after first responders were summoned to a medical emergency at his home about a week after she did so.

Clark resigned from Proctor in September, shortly after posting a $100,000 conditional bond to secure his release from jail after a month of incarceration.

The 1988 Proctor High School graduate previously served as a middle school math teacher at Marshall School in Duluth and spent 20 years coaching high school varsity boys basketball at Proctor and Marshall.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, St. Louis County prosecutor Jon Holets dropped additional felony counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and first-degree witness tampering. Clark would have faced a presumptive 12 years in prison under the top count.

Judge Theresa Neo ordered Clark to comply with a background investigation and psychosexual evaluation ahead of sentencing.

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This story was updated at 5:25 p.m. April 14 to correct Todd Clark's year of graduation. It was originally posted at 4:57 p.m. April 14. The News Tribune regrets the error.

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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