County man enters plea in sexual battery case

Published 5:51 pm Friday, March 3, 2017

Earl Clarke

A Carter County man charged with sexual battery entered a guilty plea to a lesser charge in Criminal Court on Monday and will serve three years on probation.
Earl Richard Clarke, 73, of 205 Apple Tree Lane, Elizabethton, pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless aggravated assault, a Class D felony under state law. Under the terms of a plea agreement Clarke and his attorney, Greg Norris, reached with the District Attorney’s Office, Clarke will serve no jail time but will serve three years on probation through the Tennessee Department of Correction’s Board of Probation and Parole. The court ordered Clarke to have no contact with the victim in the case and to have no unsupervised contact with children under the age of 18.
According to court documents, the victim and her family approved the plea agreement, as did the prosecuting officer in the case, Carter County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Randy Bowers.
When Clarke’s case was first called before the court, Norris was not present because he was appearing on another matter in court in Jonesborough. An attorney who works with Norris stood in for him and informed the court a plea agreement was in the works.
Assistant District Attorney General Janet Hardin asked the court not to reset the case for another day, but rather to allow time for Norris to make it to Carter County.
“It’s a family situation. The victim is his granddaughter,” Assistant District Attorney General Janet Hardin told Criminal Court Judge Stacy Street on Friday. “It has split this family apart. They need a resolution.”
Hardin also said Clarke was in “very poor health” and it would be more beneficial for everyone involved if the plea could proceed on Friday. Street agreed to allow time for Norris to arrive from his Jonesborough court appearance.
A Carter County Grand Jury indicted Clarke in July 2016 on a charge of sexual battery by an authority figure. According to the indictment, Clarke committed the offense of sexual battery by an authority figure “by knowingly engaging in unlawful sexual contact” with a 14-year-old girl, and at the time of the offense Clarke “was in a position of trust or had supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim by virtue of the defendant’s legal status and used such power to accomplish the sexual act.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox