82.1 F
Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, August 9, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesProsecution, Defense Paint Differing Pictures in Case Against ATF Agent

Prosecution, Defense Paint Differing Pictures in Case Against ATF Agent

Prosecuting and defense attorneys painted starkly different pictures Monday, as they laid out their versions of an incident that either points to federal agent William Clark as a murderer or an innocent bystander who got sucked into his neighbors’ violent domestic dispute.
Clark has been charged with second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and two counts of related weapons charges for the Sept. 7, 2008 shooting death of Marcus Sukow.
Two years in the making, Clark’s trial has stirred controversy both locally and abroad, raising questions about the status of federal agents once they’re stationed in the territory and how they’re treated by — or how much cooperation they’re going to get from — local law enforcement.
National media coverage of the case, with the most recent report posted Monday morning on CNN.com, has continued to underscore that no one disputes Clark shot and killed Sukow that September morning. However, many outlets have also pointed out that Clark has been cleared of any procedural wrongdoing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — the agency where he’s worked as a special agent for the past nine years — and continues to receive its support, along with various stateside groups and congressmen who have led protests and campaigns to clear his name.
The CNN report further references correspondence between Gov. John deJongh Jr. and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who says in a recent letter that the continued prosecution of Clark’s case — and by extension, a conviction — has the "potential to create a chilling effect on the operation of federal law enforcement throughout the U.S. territories."
Several outlets, starting with the Source, have continued to report that the ATF pulled all its agents out of the territory after Clark’s arrest and has not yet re-established a physical presence. But local officials have maintained that the case was properly investigated and that the evidence collected by police warranted a trial. At the top of the list, some have said, is the argument that Clark used a gun and killed Sukow after firing off five shots, while his alleged victim only had a flashlight.
This point was underscored in court Monday, as prosecuting attorney Claude Walker said that Sukow — described as a big, strapping man who was "drunk, a little drunk" at the time of the shooting — did not assault Clark or touch him in any way, and only had the flashlight on hand at the time because electrical problems at the power plant were causing recurring brownouts in the area.
There are three witnesses in the case that can confirm this story — the most important of which is Marguerite "Margie" Duncan, Sukow’s girlfriend, along with St. Thomas attorney Henry Carr, and Rolando Smith, a security guard working at Mahogany Estates, where the incident took place, Walker said.
He described Sukow and Duncan as two people very much in love with one another, and ready on that morning to go about with their usual Sunday routine — specifically, brunch followed by a swim at Magens Bay Beach. Walker said that at brunch, both washed down their meals with some alcohol: Duncan with mimosas and Sukow with beer.
According to Walker, when the two came home afterward to their condo at Mahogany Estates, Sukow broached the subject of marriage, which the recently divorced Duncan declined. Sukow "got a bit upset" at that point, Walker said, and followed Duncan outside when she went to her car to take a drive down the guard booth in an effort to give Sukow some time to cool off.
Various neighbors, Clark included, were around while the couple argued outside. At some point, Duncan asked Clark for a ride down the road, and it was during that time, Walker said, that Sukow went to his own car to get his lighter, a cigarette and the flashlight he kept handy in case of brownouts. Upon seeing Duncan in Clark’s car, Sukow approached the driver’s side door, cigarette in one hand and flashlight in the other, and told Clark that he still needed to talk to Duncan.
It was at that point, Walker said, that Clark pulled his gun from his gym bag, even though Sukow never threatened him.
"The defendant points his gun at Marcus, and Marcus steps back with his hands at his sides and says, ‘Are you going to shoot me?’" Walker recounted to the jury. "And at that point, the defendant empties his revolver into Marcus," Walker said, "shooting him once in the back and in his chest four times."
Walker said Duncan’s testimony would corroborate the story, which shows that Clark intentionally shot Sukow instead of simply driving away.
But Duncan’s testimony would be just that — a story, one that she’s changed several times depending on who you talk to, countered Clark defense attorney Rudolph Acree, whose opening argument painted a few key details in an entirely different light.
First, Sukow wasn’t just drunk, his blood alcohol level was .29 — three times the legal limit, Acree argued. Additionally, the couple’s argument was in fact a violent dispute that was taken to another level when Sukow took the heavy-duty flashlight and started banging dents into Duncan’s car, prompting the terrified woman to turn to her neighbor Clark for help.
"He was going to the gym," Acree said of Clark’s activities that morning. "When he came out, he saw Margie Duncan standing there, crying, saying, ‘Will, please help me.’"
According to Acree’s opening argument, Duncan’s outburst was fueled by a barrage of threats and expletives from Sukow, who Acree said could not be calmed down by anyone — not Carr, not the security guard and not Clark, who Acree said has intervened in the couple’s disputes before.
The situation spiraled even more out of control when Sukow spotted Duncan in Clark’s car, and approached from the driver’s side, wielding the flashlight. Clark’s door was open, one of his legs was outside and Sukow’s bulky frame blocked the doorway.
"Brownouts?" Acree said, questioning Walker’s earlier argument. "It’s Sunday morning and you’re out there trying to get a flashlight for brownouts when your blood alcohol level is .29, while you’re shouting to your girlfriend, ‘Bitch, get in the house?’"
Acree said it was no doubt that Sukow meant to use the flashlight as a weapon, possibly denting Clark’s skull like he did Duncan’s car. The defense attorney illustrated by pulling out a flashlight in the courtroom, and carrying it like he said Sukow did.
Then he flipped the on-switch.
"He wasn’t doing this," Acree said. "He wasn’t just standing there, turning it on."
Acree said that the 2008 incident was the first time in his 13-year law enforcement career that Clark had fired at someone. Sukow came at him fast, was in close proximity and was a potential threat to both his and Duncan’s lives — so, at that point, he had to act fast, he explained.
Commenting on the number of shots fired, Acree added that Clark wasn’t keeping count, and that Sukow didn’t fall or make any noise after the shots went off.
"He didn’t know if he even shot him or not," Acree said, making clear that that Sukow was never shot in the back.
"Agent Clark was forced to protect his own life and that’s what he did," Acree said. "That’s all that he did."
The trial picks up again 9 a.m. Tuesday, with the prosecution calling its first witnesses.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.




1 COMMENT

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.

FROM FACEBOOK

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons
Load more

Prosecuting and defense attorneys painted starkly different pictures Monday, as they laid out their versions of an incident that either points to federal agent William Clark as a murderer or an innocent bystander who got sucked into his neighbors' violent domestic dispute.
Clark has been charged with second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and two counts of related weapons charges for the Sept. 7, 2008 shooting death of Marcus Sukow.
Two years in the making, Clark's trial has stirred controversy both locally and abroad, raising questions about the status of federal agents once they're stationed in the territory and how they're treated by -- or how much cooperation they're going to get from -- local law enforcement.
National media coverage of the case, with the most recent report posted Monday morning on CNN.com, has continued to underscore that no one disputes Clark shot and killed Sukow that September morning. However, many outlets have also pointed out that Clark has been cleared of any procedural wrongdoing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives -- the agency where he's worked as a special agent for the past nine years -- and continues to receive its support, along with various stateside groups and congressmen who have led protests and campaigns to clear his name.
The CNN report further references correspondence between Gov. John deJongh Jr. and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who says in a recent letter that the continued prosecution of Clark's case -- and by extension, a conviction -- has the "potential to create a chilling effect on the operation of federal law enforcement throughout the U.S. territories."
Several outlets, starting with the Source, have continued to report that the ATF pulled all its agents out of the territory after Clark's arrest and has not yet re-established a physical presence. But local officials have maintained that the case was properly investigated and that the evidence collected by police warranted a trial. At the top of the list, some have said, is the argument that Clark used a gun and killed Sukow after firing off five shots, while his alleged victim only had a flashlight.
This point was underscored in court Monday, as prosecuting attorney Claude Walker said that Sukow -- described as a big, strapping man who was "drunk, a little drunk" at the time of the shooting -- did not assault Clark or touch him in any way, and only had the flashlight on hand at the time because electrical problems at the power plant were causing recurring brownouts in the area.
There are three witnesses in the case that can confirm this story -- the most important of which is Marguerite "Margie" Duncan, Sukow's girlfriend, along with St. Thomas attorney Henry Carr, and Rolando Smith, a security guard working at Mahogany Estates, where the incident took place, Walker said.
He described Sukow and Duncan as two people very much in love with one another, and ready on that morning to go about with their usual Sunday routine -- specifically, brunch followed by a swim at Magens Bay Beach. Walker said that at brunch, both washed down their meals with some alcohol: Duncan with mimosas and Sukow with beer.
According to Walker, when the two came home afterward to their condo at Mahogany Estates, Sukow broached the subject of marriage, which the recently divorced Duncan declined. Sukow "got a bit upset" at that point, Walker said, and followed Duncan outside when she went to her car to take a drive down the guard booth in an effort to give Sukow some time to cool off.
Various neighbors, Clark included, were around while the couple argued outside. At some point, Duncan asked Clark for a ride down the road, and it was during that time, Walker said, that Sukow went to his own car to get his lighter, a cigarette and the flashlight he kept handy in case of brownouts. Upon seeing Duncan in Clark's car, Sukow approached the driver's side door, cigarette in one hand and flashlight in the other, and told Clark that he still needed to talk to Duncan.
It was at that point, Walker said, that Clark pulled his gun from his gym bag, even though Sukow never threatened him.
"The defendant points his gun at Marcus, and Marcus steps back with his hands at his sides and says, 'Are you going to shoot me?'" Walker recounted to the jury. "And at that point, the defendant empties his revolver into Marcus," Walker said, "shooting him once in the back and in his chest four times."
Walker said Duncan's testimony would corroborate the story, which shows that Clark intentionally shot Sukow instead of simply driving away.
But Duncan's testimony would be just that -- a story, one that she's changed several times depending on who you talk to, countered Clark defense attorney Rudolph Acree, whose opening argument painted a few key details in an entirely different light.
First, Sukow wasn't just drunk, his blood alcohol level was .29 -- three times the legal limit, Acree argued. Additionally, the couple's argument was in fact a violent dispute that was taken to another level when Sukow took the heavy-duty flashlight and started banging dents into Duncan's car, prompting the terrified woman to turn to her neighbor Clark for help.
"He was going to the gym," Acree said of Clark's activities that morning. "When he came out, he saw Margie Duncan standing there, crying, saying, 'Will, please help me.'"
According to Acree's opening argument, Duncan's outburst was fueled by a barrage of threats and expletives from Sukow, who Acree said could not be calmed down by anyone -- not Carr, not the security guard and not Clark, who Acree said has intervened in the couple's disputes before.
The situation spiraled even more out of control when Sukow spotted Duncan in Clark's car, and approached from the driver's side, wielding the flashlight. Clark's door was open, one of his legs was outside and Sukow's bulky frame blocked the doorway.
"Brownouts?" Acree said, questioning Walker's earlier argument. "It's Sunday morning and you're out there trying to get a flashlight for brownouts when your blood alcohol level is .29, while you're shouting to your girlfriend, 'Bitch, get in the house?'"
Acree said it was no doubt that Sukow meant to use the flashlight as a weapon, possibly denting Clark's skull like he did Duncan's car. The defense attorney illustrated by pulling out a flashlight in the courtroom, and carrying it like he said Sukow did.
Then he flipped the on-switch.
"He wasn't doing this," Acree said. "He wasn't just standing there, turning it on."
Acree said that the 2008 incident was the first time in his 13-year law enforcement career that Clark had fired at someone. Sukow came at him fast, was in close proximity and was a potential threat to both his and Duncan's lives -- so, at that point, he had to act fast, he explained.
Commenting on the number of shots fired, Acree added that Clark wasn't keeping count, and that Sukow didn't fall or make any noise after the shots went off.
"He didn't know if he even shot him or not," Acree said, making clear that that Sukow was never shot in the back.
"Agent Clark was forced to protect his own life and that's what he did," Acree said. "That's all that he did."
The trial picks up again 9 a.m. Tuesday, with the prosecution calling its first witnesses.