Clark was hastened off to the meeting with Lythgoe, then to a studio where, without preparation, he taped an interview for the April 1 Idol show—then into ignominy as the butt of Jay Leno jokes. If scandals on this season's Idol are gold, Corey Clark had just gone platinum. "I feel like I was exploited for ratings," he says. Claiming he neither hit his sister Alysha, 15, nor took on four policemen, Clark also maintains he was misled during his 40-minute meeting with Lythgoe, a session that was attended by a psychiatrist. "I was told that depending on how I handled the situation and helped them get through it, that I still had a chance to be on the show," says Clark. "I wasn't able to talk to a lawyer, my parents or a PR person. They were just rushing me along." (Idol producers declined to respond to the singer's charges.) An hour later, according to Clark, Lythgoe told him that FOX wanted him off the show.
Clark claims the interview that aired "was so spliced that it frustrated me." He was particularly irked by the use of his comment, "I was a little scared," which he says he made in response to a question about how he felt when Topeka police arrested him last October. As edited, it sounded like he was referring to why he never mentioned his arrest to Idol producers. "They put it out there like I was a liar," he says.
Well, is he? Clark admits that the documents he filled out during his Idol background check deny any arrest record. He says that a canceled November court date, the refund of his $100 bond and comments by court officers led him to believe the case had been dismissed-an account his attorney Robin Mitchell Joyce corroborates. As for the battery charges, his sister Alysha says, "He never hit me. We just started arguing, like any brother or sister would." By Clark's account, when they took their feud outside, a neighbor "showed up and got involved"; when he cursed at the woman, she called the cops. Refuting media reports, he says, "I did not beat up four police officers. I was not screaming." He admits to arguing with them and stepping through handcuffed arms to bring his hands in front of his body. (The police declined comment.) Clark spent the next three nights in jail, waiting to post bail after the long Columbus Day weekend.
His mom, Jan, calls the episode "a babysitting gig gone bad." At the time, Cracker Barrel had just relocated her to Nashville to manage a store, and her husband, Duane, 53, a professional singer, was recuperating from throat surgery. "Our son came home to help us out," says Jan, 44. "We didn't ask him to—he offered because he loves his sisters." She doesn't doubt the sibling spat was noisy. "As one tries to out-talk the other, the volume gets louder."
Case documents say the parties are discussing a "nontrial resolution," but Jason Coody of the Shawnee County D.A.'s office says, "To my knowledge, the case is still on." In the meantime, Clark has moved to Rialto, Calif. "I may work at McDonald's or Blockbuster to keep some stuff coming in," he says. But Clark, who began his showbiz career at 14, says the Idol debacle is not a career-ender. "They played a major part in getting my face out there," he says. "But my hard work, determination and talent did not start with American Idol."