Cronk wants to choose jail

Deal may hinge on if he can avoid county lockup

Ex-Montezuma County Undersheriff Robin Cronk might plead guilty this week to public-corruption charges if he’s allowed to choose where he can serve his sentence.

Cronk’s court-appointed defense counsel, Katharine Whitney, announced at a hearing last week that her client was considering a plea deal that would include a mandatory 30-day jail sentence. She said Cronk had requested he be able to choose a detention center other than the Montezuma County jail to serve out the sentence because of safety concerns and conflicts of interest with local authorities.

“There’s a lot of adversity in this jurisdiction,” Whitney said last Thursday.

District Court Judge Todd Plewe said he was unopposed to the defendant’s request, but he insisted the sentence must be carried out behind bars – not in a halfway house or under home-monitored detention.

“It has to be an actual incarcerated jail term,” Plewe said. “I want some sort of proof.”

In addition to jail time, the proposed plea deal would include six months of unsupervised probation. Whitney said restitution has been made in the case.

Cronk’s next hearing is set for 11 a.m. on Thursday, March 20. If a plea agreement is not reached, the case is set for jury trial starting April 21.

Appearing at last week’s hearing via telephone, Cronk questioned the court on a number of sentencing issues, including his eligibility to serve as a trustee while incarcerated and whether he could be released early for good behavior.

Plewe said the court was unable to dictate what rules or guidelines another jurisdiction would impose during incarceration. Likely to serve the sentence in solitary confinement because of safety reasons, Cronk was also that advised he would be responsible for all financial costs associated with his detention in an outside jurisdiction.

It remains unknown where Cronk would complete his jail sentence if he agrees to the plea deal.

Last month, Plewe rejected the original plea deal, because the agreement didn’t include jail time.

Under the proposed agreement, Cronk would plead guilty to one felony charge of embezzlement and a lone misdemeanor charge of official misconduct. With a felony conviction, he would be unable to serve in law enforcement again.

Now a resident of Phoenix, Ariz., Cronk was indicted in August by a Montezuma County grand jury on 17 felony counts of embezzlement and a misdemeanor count of official misconduct. The alleged public-corruption charges stem from his 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 in June 2013 because of the public corruption allegations. He is free on a $1,500 bond.

tbaker@cortezjournal.com