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Vaughn Clark pleas guilty to felony drug count, sentenced to 4 years

Hannah Colton/KDLG

A drug bust in October 2014 found the Dillingham man allegedly in possession of heroin, meth, and other drug paraphenalia; on Thursday he pled guilty to one felony charge of having methadone pills.

Dillingham alleged drug dealer Vaughn Clark, 39, pled guilty Thursday morning to one felony count of possessing methadone and was sentenced to four years in prison.

The charges stem from a bust in October of 2014, when Clark was arrested in Dillingham for possessing heroin, methadone pills, and meth as well as brass knuckles.

Law enforcement got a tip that Clark was allegedly dealing drugs in the school parking lot, which led officers to stop his vehicle downtown and discover the drugs.

Last spring, Clark’s attorney Cynthia Strout challenged the way the police had made contact with her client the day of the arrest. But in June, Judge Patricia Douglass upheld the evidence, saying that the informant’s tip was corroborated by law enforcement’s observations prior to and during the vehicle stop and arrest. 

In a change of plea hearing Thursday morning, Clark agreed to plea guilty to one Class C felony count for possessing methadone pills.

Unlike his court appearance after his October 2014 arrest, when he appeared to be suffering withdrawal symptoms, Clark seemed calm and collected Thursday morning. He spoke just before his sentencing.

"I’d like to apologize to the community for any problems I’ve caused," said Clark. "And I did have a drug problem, I admit it, and I would like to clean myself up. I know I’m getting to that age, like everybody says, where I need to clean myself up -- not only for myself but for my kids."

Prosecutor Beth Oates recommended a fine of $15,000, saying that drug users impose a "significant burden on society, victims and the state."

"There's probably millions of dollars funneled into trying to educate youth to stay away from drugs," said Oates, "and I think Mr. Clark's behavior flies in the face of those efforts." 

But defense attorney Cynthia Strout argued against a fine, saying the financial burden would hinder Clark from getting back on his feet after his eventual release.

Judge Douglass did not impose a fine, but sentenced Clark to serve the maximum length for this crime: four years flat.

"And I think the flat part is important because you have a long, long criminal history and I have to take that into consideration," Judge Douglass told Clark. "You have a long history of assault, drug problems, alcohol problems, and violations of conditions of release. I mean, everything that goes along with addiction of any sort, that’s in your criminal history, and it goes back a long ways."

Douglass recognized that Clark did have a "blank spot" on his record with no convictions for several years, which she said "shows that either you can keep it under control or you can hide it very well, I don’t know which... but I’m hoping that you can come out after this 32 months is done, and you will be clean and you will not be dealing any more to support a habit." 

The other six felony charges and one misdemeanor from October 2014 were dropped.

Less than two years ago, Judge Douglass tossed evidence against Clark in another drug case, which was ultimately dismissed.

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