A 39-year-old Geismar man must serve five years in state prison and register as a sex offender for the rest of his life after he admitted to molesting a girl over a period of more than five years.

Wayne J. Clark Jr. pleaded guilty to molestation of a juvenile while jury selection was still under way for his trial this week in Ascension Parish.

According to a plea document, Clark admitted to molesting the girl from ages 11 to 16 between Jan 1, 2013, and Aug. 31, 2018.

After the plea on Tuesday, Judge Jason Verdigets of the 23rd Judicial District Court gave Clark a 20-year prison sentence but suspended all but 15 years of it.

He also gave Clark five years of supervised probation following his release from prison and ordered him to stay away from the victim, who is now an adult, for the rest of his life.

Sheriff's deputies had arrested Clark in September 2018, online records show.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

Twice daily we'll send you the day's biggest headlines. Sign up today.

His case is one of several moving through the Ascension dockets as coronavirus restrictions have been eased and trials are starting to become more common. 

Brant Mayer, Clark's defense attorney, said his client had faced up to 40 years is state prison on the molestation charge and his plea "took a big number out of play."

Mayer added that it's "not uncommon for the accused in a criminal prosecution to maintain his or her innocence while agreeing to a plea bargain."

As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors also dropped a count of indecent behavior with a juvenile pending against Clark.

Prosecutors in Ascension Parish didn't immediately return an email for comment Thursday. 

Verdigets ordered Clark, who has been out on bail of $100,000 for more than three years, to report to Ascension Parish Prison near Donaldsonville on Dec. 1, online records show.

Email David J. Mitchell at

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.