DOCUMENT: Celebrity

The Fall Of Another "Idol"

Reality show finalist facing trial for battering teen sister

Corey Clark

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three-count misdemeanor complaint

$600 in bad checks

passed a bad $50 check

*** 6/19/03 UPDATE: In a deal with Kansas prosecutors, Corey Clark today pleaded no contest to a charge of "obstructing legal process" and was sentenced to six months unsupervised probation and ordered to pay $116 in court costs. Two other misdemeanor counts were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

*** 4/1/03 UPDATE: "Idol" finalist gets the boot, court appearance moved to May 7 in light of plea negotiations.

MARCH 31, 2003--An "American Idol" finalist is facing trial next month on charges he assaulted his teenage sister and battled with cops while resisting arrest, The Smoking Gun has learned.

Corey Clark, 22, was arrested last October following a disturbance in his family's Topeka, Kansas home. Neighbors called police after hearing a girl yelling inside the Clark residence on SW 33rd Terrace. One witness told TSG that while he heard loud noises coming from the home, "what finally caught my attention was a lot of screaming. Then I knew somebody was getting hurt."

When police arrived, Clark--now one of nine remaining "American Idol" contestants--and his 15-year-old sister Alecia were questioned separately by officers. After about 15 minutes, Clark became confrontational with cops, screaming and yelling at officers, several of whom responded by wrestling the wiry, six-foot singer to the pavement. Clark was handcuffed behind his back and placed in a Topeka Police Department cruiser.

While sitting in the squad car, he was somehow able to get his cuffed hands in front of him, causing police to yank Clark out of the car and attempt to re-cuff him, the witness said. When he again struggled with officers, a cop showed Clark a Taser and warned that if he continued to resist, he would be shot with the stun gun. Clark then relented.

He was booked into the Shawnee County jail and charged with a variety of misdemeanors, including battery on four law enforcement officers, battery on his sister, and endangering a child. After three days in custody, Clark was released on bond, a condition of which probibited him from contacting his sister. On a bond application form, Clark wrote that he had worked as a "self employed entertainer" for the prior eight years and was "currently enrolling into school for audio engineering."

On December 4, just days after Clark was tabbed as one of the final 234 "American Idol" contestants, he was named in a three-count misdemeanor complaint filed by prosecutors in Kansas District Court. The complaint, which modified the original police counts, charged Clark with resisting arrest, battery upon his sister, and criminal restraint. If convicted of the charges, Clark faces a maximum of a year in prison on two of the misdemeanors, and up to six months on the third count.

Along with three neighbors and five cops, Kansas prosecutors listed Clark's two sisters--Alecia and 19-year-old Ajia--as prospective witnesses. In preparation for Clark's trial, scheduled for April 15 in Topeka, prosecutors recently began serving subpoenas to those expected to testify as government witnesses.

In late-January, Clark was picked as one of the 32 "American Idol" semifinalists, and he has continued to advance in the competition. He is now one of nine remaining competitors who can be seen performing twice weekly in prime time on Fox Television. Shortly after his October arrest, Clark briefly relocated to Nashville, but he is now ensconced in a Hollywood Hills mansion with his fellow "American Idol" finalists.

The pending criminal charges against Clark were not the wannabe star's first brush with the Kansas court system. In April 2000, he was sued by Wal-Mart for passing more than $600 in bad checks at a Topeka store. One year later, Clark was sued by a Topeka grocery store where he allegedly passed a bad $50 check. In the case of the Wal-Mart lawsuit, it appears Clark made good on the bad paper nearly two years after the retail giant filed its District Court lawsuit. But that was not before Wal-Mart secured seven separate garnishment orders on Clark's bank account (though those attempts yielded only $49.77 and repeated notices from the Bank of American that Clark's account had "no funds," or was "overdrawn"). The grocery store, JM Bauersfeld's, fared better, getting repaid just five months after filing against Clark in District Court.

So, were/are "American Idol" producers aware of Clark's criminal predicament? Well, TSG long ago stopped believing anything that reality TV producers say when it comes to what they did or did not know about a contestant's past. It appears that a combination of Keystone Kops background checks, participant mendacity, and unblinking network indifference has guaranteed that drunk drivers, bankrupt deadbeats, shoplifters, bondage actresses, and assorted convicted criminals will continue to populate reality TV shows.

For its part, Fox has adopted a blanket policy whereby network executives refuse comment "on the private lives of show participants." That's not a bad stance when you consider that this year's original 32 "American Idol" semifinalists included a convicted thief, an Internet porn model, and a guy who's been charged in connection with a fight that ended in the death of a Pennsylvania man. In fact, Fox booted the contestant, Jaered Andrews, a month before he was even arrested for misdemeanor assault.

TSG will venture a guess that Fox knew about Clark's rubber checks, but were unaware that he had been popped for battering his little sister (if true, not exactly "Idol" behavior). Either way, April 15 will turn out to be a taxing Tuesday for him, with Clark scheduled to be in the Topeka dock at 10 AM and, as of now, singing live on TV later that day. (8 pages)