District Court Judge Todd Plewe rejected a proposed plea deal Thursday for former Montezuma County Undersheriff Robin Cronk.
Plewe turned down the agreement late Thursday, Feb. 20, because a lack of any jail time was included in the agreement.
"Law enforcement has a higher degree of public trust," Plewe said. "They serve in a position of trust to administer and enforce the laws. When they violate that responsibility and trust, then there has to be a greater consequence. That's my problem with this plea."
Under the proposed agreement, Cronk would have pleaded guilty to one felony charge of embezzlement and a lone misdemeanor charge of official misconduct. Cronk would have been ordered to pay restitution, forfeited property and been placed on unsupervised probation for six months.
"The conviction would ensure that Mr. Cronk could never serve in a future position of power again," District Attorney Will Furse told Plewe. "The people believe this is an appropriate course of action."
Plewe again reiterated that without any jail time, he would reject the deal.
"That's my decision," Plewe said.
Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell sat on the back row of the near 60-minute proceeding. Outside of court, Spruell said he wished the judge had required a longer jail term.
"Law enforcement should be held to a higher standard," Spruell said. "Mr. Cronk stomped on the public's trust, but 30 days is better than nothing."
Cronk's alternate public defender, Katharine Whitney, said all the stolen items had been returned, and argued that the felony conviction would serve as a "strong sanction" against her client.
"This is going to change my client's life," she told Plewe.
Whitney said her client feared serving his sentence in isolation, and she requested a 15-day jail term. Again, Plewe rejected the request.
"Mr. Cronk doesn't have to accept the agreement," Plewe said. "He can go to trial if he wants. It's his choice."
Cronk ultimately rejected the deal. He declined to comment after the proceeding.
Thursday's proceedings were initially scheduled to hear three defense motions, including a change of venue request, to disqualify Furse as the prosecutor and a gag order against the Sheriff's Office.
The motion's hearing was rescheduled for 11 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 21, at which point Cronk could ultimately accept the plea deal.
Cronk, now a resident of Phoenix, was indicted by a Montezuma County grand jury on 17 felony counts of embezzlement and the misdemeanor count of official misconduct last 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 due to the public corruption allegations. He is currently free on a $1,500 bond.