Former undersheriff Cronk: No plea deal

The public corruption trial of former Montezuma County Undersheriff Robin Cronk inched forward this week after the defendant rejected a plea agreement.

Moments before a scheduled 2 p.m. hearing on Feb. 4, alternate public defender Katharine Whitney informed prosecutors that her client opted to decline the plea deal. Details of the plea agreement were not made public.

“We believed we had a plea agreement up until about 24 hours ago, but we don’t,” Whitney told District Court Judge Todd Plewe. “We don’t have a disposition today.”

Before the announcement, Plewe was scheduled to hear oral arguments on three defense motions, including a change of venue, a gag order and a motion to disqualify District Attorney Will Furse from prosecuting the case.

Because of the plea agreement that dates back to Jan. 10, Furse requested the continuance, indicating that he didn’t prepare for defense motions.

“We thought we had a plea deal up until a few minutes ago,” Furse explained.

Plewe rescheduled the motions hearing for 2 p.m. on Feb. 20, but he refused to alter the April 21 jury trial.

“This case has been delayed long enough,” said Plewe.

Cronk, now a resident of Phoenix, Ariz., was indicted by a Montezuma County grand jury on 17 felony counts of embezzlement in August. The alleged public corruption charges stem from Cronk’s abuse of Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office financial accounts.

Over a 26-month span starting in February 2011, records show Cronk bilked taxpayers out of nearly $7,500 for personal gunsmithing services, vehicle maintenance, holsters, generators, gun components, ammunition and firearms.

Tapped as undersheriff in January 2011, Cronk was forced to resign the post in June 2013 because of the corruption allegations. He is currently free on a $1,500 bond.

Cronk was declared indigent and eligible to receive court appointed counsel despite earning more than $6,000 a month as undersheriff.