Cronk appeared unshaven before District Court Judge Todd Plewe Friday morning for sentencing after pleading guilty in March to a Class 5 felony charge of embezzlement and a Class 2 misdemeanor charge of first-degree official misconduct.
“Mr. Cronk, you violated the public trust,” Plewe told the defendant Friday, May 30.
“A message needs to be sent to you and all others in law enforcement,” he said. “You are not above the law.”
Plewe ordered Cronk to a 30-day jail term in the Mesa County Jail in Grand Junction with credit for two days served. He was also sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation and court costs. A subsequent restitution and firearms forfeiture hearing was set for Aug. 21.
Under the terms of the March 20th plea agreement, Cronk was able to choose where to serve his jail term. Appearing in court via telephone on Friday, alternate defense counsel Katherine Whitney argued that the jail location should remain under court seal.
“There’s a safety issue, because Mr. Cronk worked in law enforcement,” Whitney said. “That’s the main reason we want to keep it under seal.”
District Attorney Will Furse didn’t object to the defense request, but he did ask the court to unseal the jail location after Cronk completed the sentence.
Plewe struck down the defense motion, citing transparency was one of the hallmarks of the country’s judicial system.
“I see no reason to take the extraordinary measure to keep the jail location secret,” said Plewe. “The public has a right to know.”
During Friday’s 27-minute court proceeding, Plewe also smirked with disgust when prosecutors were unable to offer an exact dollar amount of restitution. Furse explained the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office had failed to share the total amount of restitution with his office.
“Why is it taking so long?” Plewe asked.
“I can’t answer that question,” replied Furse.
“This case has been pending for a year,” Plewe countered. “I’m disappointed we don’t have a restitution number today.”
Prior to sentencing, Furse also outlined Cronk’s criminal history, which dates to 2000. According to Scottsdale, Ariz., Police Department records, Cronk was arrested and charged with second-degree burglary, first-degree residential criminal trespass and inflicting physical injury to an animal on Dec. 31, 2000. Furse said the victim was Cronk’s ex-fiancée.
According to the 2000 incident report, Cronk forced his way into the woman’s home through a bathroom window before stealing her Great Dane and kicking a roommate’s Chow.
Reports reveal that Cronk, a member of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Posse at the time, admitted to taking the Great Dane while driving a marked Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office vehicle, but he denied injuring the Chow. An emergency protection order for the victim was issued, and Cronk pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
After Friday’s proceedings, Furse said Cronk abused his position of power while converting thousands of dollars for personal gain, betraying public trust and undermining the integrity of the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office.
“While Mr. Cronk was aware that his actions were illegal, the evidence shows that the sheriff’s laissez-faire approach toward staff supervision allowed these misdeeds to go unnoticed prior to our independent investigation,” Furse said.
“The sentence today and felony conviction puts Mr. Cronk and all government officials on notice that they are not above the law,” the district attorney said.
The public corruption charges against Cronk stemmed 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.
Now a resident of Phoenix, Ariz., Cronk was tapped as Montezuma County undersheriff in January 2011. He was forced to resign the post in June 2013.
Plewe ordered Cronk to report to the Mesa County Jail by 10 p.m. Friday. He also demanded proof that Cronk not only reported to serve his jail term, but also evidence that he completed his sentence.
Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell did not attend Friday’s hearing, and he was not immediately available for comment.