HAZARD – A Perry County man charged with shooting his father is out of jail after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge, while a second felony case was resolved in Perry District Court.
Ronald Clark, 46, of Avawam, was arrested by officers with the Hazard Police Department in March on charges of robbery and resisting arrest after they say he was armed with a knife during a shoplifting incident at the Hazard Kmart.
At the time, Clark was wanted in a previous case in which he had been indicted on charges including first-degree assault. He was alleged to have shot his father, Ronnie Clark, with a shotgun on August 29, 2011 while the elder Clark was attempting to enter a vehicle occupied by two other people, including a nine-year-old. Ronnie Clark was allegedly struck several times by pellets from the shotgun, while projectiles also struck the vehicle.
Ronald Clark, who was indicted in October 2011, was also facing two counts of first-degree wanton endangerment and first-degree criminal mischief stemming from the incident.
It was during a bond hearing in March that Ronald Clark’s attorney, David Johnson, argued for a reduction in Clark’s bond, noting that his client’s father, who was also present during the hearing, had no objections to lowering the bond, and actually stated that he did not wish to see his son prosecuted. The elder Clark also testified during a preliminary hearing that the dispute with his son was mutual, and that he had fired several shots at his son during the altercation.
Johnson argued that his client was acting in self-defense, and while his request to lower bond was ultimately denied, it would be a little more than a month later that Clark would be released from jail as part of a plea agreement.
Ronald Clark appeared again in Perry Circuit Court on April 26, according to court records, where he entered a guilty plea on an amended count of second-degree criminal mischief, while all other charges were dismissed, including charges of assault and wanton endangerment.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Teresa Reed noted that obtaining a conviction against Clark for assault would have been difficult considering that the victim testified that the altercation was one in which they were both firing shots at each other. And a conviction would have been even more difficult because, she added, Ronnie Clark apparently informed Johnson that he had fired the first shot.
“The bottom line is if a witness takes the stand and says, ‘I was the one who pulled the gun first, he was just acting in self-defense because I was shooting at him,’ well the jury’s not going to convict,” Reed said.
Reed added that another factor in her decision to agree to a guilty plea was that the parents of the nine-year-old both agreed with the plea bargain, and “they did not wish to pursue other charges.”
Clark was placed on two years of probation in exchange for his plea, the conditions of which include two Narcotics Anonymous or Lifeline meetings each week, he can possess no firearms, and he will be randomly drug tested once each week for the first year of his probation. He was also ordered to undergo anger management and a 10-week outpatient substance abuse program.
Johnson remarked to the Herald this week that Ronald Clark was defending himself when the incident with his father occurred, and those charges should have never been filed.
“We believed all along it was self-defense,” Johnson said. “It was a family dispute where even in the police report [Ronnie Clark] stated that if he hadn’t went and got his gun first, he didn’t believe [Ronald Clark] would have got his shotgun.”
It was also in April that the second case against Clark alleging first-degree robbery was resolved. According to court records, Clark pleaded guilty in Perry District Court to an amended count of misdemeanor theft in exchange for probation, the conditions of which include no similar offenses, and that he abide by the sentence levied in Perry Circuit Court regarding the assault case.
Johnson said this week that the knife in question was actually a pocket knife, which would not warrant a robbery charge.