PROVO -- A cloudy afternoon had nearly ended Wednesday before Michael Benjamin Clarke stood and admitting to trying to rape a child over and over again.
Only moments earlier, Clarke stood shackled and clad in jail scrubs as prosecutors revealed that they had reached a deal with Clarke. The deal involved prosecutors adding the word "attempted" to Clarke's 20 first-degree felonies for sexual abuse of a child. In exchange, Clarke pleaded guilty to all of the charges.
Each of Clarke's charges could have resulted in a sentence of three years to life in prison, which the judge could have ordered to run consecutively. However, the plea bargain also included a recommendation by prosecutors that all the sentences run concurrently. Fourth District Judge Claudia Laycock agreed to abide by that recommendation after reviewing the deal and determining that Clarke had agreed to go to prison and not fight that sentence at his next hearing.
Prosecutor Craig Johnson said that he was willing to settle the case despite already having had a preliminary hearing because he wanted to spare the victim the trauma of testifying and because Clarke agreed to go to prison. Johnson also said Clarke will be listed on the sex offender registry for the rest of his life.
Clarke's case began in October, when he reportedly walked into an American Fork police station and said he wanted to confess. Police led Clarke to an interview room, where he reportedly admitted to sexually abusing a girl multiple times over the course of several years. At a preliminary hearing in February, an officer testified that the abuse may have happened as often as every other day.
After listening to the officer's testimony, Laycock characterized Clarke's behavior as nothing less than alarming.
"We have a pretty steady case of grooming of this child," Laycock added during the February hearing.
Prosecutors have previously described the case as particularly egregious, saying Clarke led a double life by abusing the girl while also participating in religious activities.