By ANNE EASKER
PUNTA GORDA — A former Charlotte County elementary school teacher, arrested last year after he made up a story about being pulled over by two men impersonating police officers to cover his tardiness, has entered a pre-trial diversion contract.
According to court records, Karter Clark, 26, arrived at school shortly after 9 a.m. on Dec. 17, 2018, and told a school resource deputy he had been pulled over on his way to work by two black men in white cars claiming to be police officers. He said they approached his vehicle, asked for his identification and registration and asked whether he had any drugs or paraphernalia in his car.
Clark claimed the two men handcuffed and searched him but let him go after they realized he had no money or drugs. He provided detailed descriptions to law enforcement of the two fake officers, according to an arrest affidavit.
The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office put out an alert to other law enforcement and media outlets, and deputies went to Clark’s home to ensure it had not been burglarized since the assailants allegedly saw his identification and address.
But when a detective responded to the area on Quesada Avenue where the incident allegedly took place, no witnesses had observed the traffic stop. It took only 5 minutes to drive to Neil Armstrong Elementary from the area, and Karter claimed he had been stopped at 7:30 a.m. That meant he would have been detained for approximately one hour and 20 minutes.
When the detective met with Clark, he admitted he made the entire story up because he was running late for work. He was charged with making false reports to law enforcement.
His attorney, Martina Hedvicek, said the crime was unusual for Clark, who was well-liked by both parents and children. As well as teaching, she said he volunteered his time after work to help kids and worked for the Boys & Girls Club in the summer.
“He was late for work and he panicked, so he tried to say he got pulled over and it spun out of control,” she said. “It was definitely an out-of-character thing for him, and I think the state saw that.”
Clark was reinstated at the school and continued teaching while the case was still pending.
“From what I understand, he was a very effective and fantastic teacher; he had a lot of support in the school district,” Hedvicek said.
Clark resigned from the Charlotte County school district effective Aug. 1, according to district spokesperson Mike Riley. Hedvicek said he is now teaching at a private school in California.
He entered the pre-trial diversion contract Aug. 6, which requires him to report to a diversion officer each month, complete 50 hours of community service, avoid any criminal activity and pay court fees and investigation costs. If he successfully completes diversion, the case will not be prosecuted and will not show up on his criminal record.