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Man Pleads Guilty to Ripping the Head off a Duck in the Atrium Lobby
 of Embassy Suites in Downtown St. Paul, Minnesota

By Mara H. Gottfried, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Jan. 16, 2008 - --ST. PAUL -- Scott D. Clark, who pleaded guilty Tuesday to ripping the head off a duck in the lobby of a St. Paul hotel, might have done a horrible thing, but he's not a horrible person, his attorney said.

"He's really a nice young man, he's humble, he's hard working, he was a good student and worked hard to get the job he did," said Michael Colich. "Nobody's been willing to look at what good things he's done in his life and what good things he'll do in his life."

During his plea to felony animal cruelty, Clark told Ramsey County District Judge Margaret Marrinan he was "extremely sorry" and had never hurt an animal before.

Marrinan said it appeared Clark, 26, had "a substantial amount to drink" before the incident. Clark told her he hadn't had a drink since the incident.

Marrinan ordered chemical and psychological evaluations before she sentences Clark next month.

Colich and the prosecution agreed on a sentence -- no more than 45 days in jail, two years of probation, 40 hours of community service, a $500 fine, restitution and no pet ownership for two years -- but Marrinan will decide.

On Sept. 22, Clark was staying at the Embassy Suites in downtown St. Paul. Clark, who lived in Denver at the time, was in town on business.

Clark was an auditor with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but has since been terminated, Colich said.

He is now living with his parents on their Missouri farm, he said.

A security guard saw Clark walk into the hotel's atrium, where ducks occupied a landscaped pond.

Clark cornered one duck against a brick wall, grabbed it and killed it by tearing its head off.

As bystanders watched, Clark said, "I'm hungry. I'm going to eat it," according to police.

When officers arrived, Clark asked if he was in trouble. They said yes.

"Why?" he asked, according to a criminal complaint. "Because I killed it out of season? Big deal, it's just a ... duck."

Clark was cited in 2006 for illegally killing a turkey, a misdemeanor, in Missouri. The citation was issued because Clark didn't have a permit to hunt turkey at the time, Colich said.

Marrinan took over Clark's case when Judge Michael DeCourcy recused himself, citing a "prejudicial" letter he received from a committee chairman of the Minnesota State Bar Association that urged him to sentence Clark "to the fullest extent of the law, not only to punish him for his actions, but to protect society."

Marrinan said in court that Colich had reminded her Tuesday that she once was on a humane society board of directors. She said she offered to recuse herself, but Colich said Clark hadn't been concerned.

Mara H. Gottfried can be reached at 651-228-5262 or mgottfried@pioneerpress.com.

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To see more of the Pioneer Press, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.twincities.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

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