June 20, 2014
Hillsville Mayor Greg Crowder will serve four days in jail as part of a plea bargain struck Friday in Bristol to an amended charge of disorderly conduct.
Originally convicted of impersonating a law officer in Bristol General District Court, Crowder was sentenced on January 9 to 90 days in jail, with 60 days suspended, and a $500 fine by Judge Blake McKinney. That conviction stemmed from a March 14, 2013 incident that led to Crowder’s arrest last August. During the January 9 trial, four employees of the Bristol Outback Steakhouse were called as witnesses. Those witnesses testified Crowder identified himself as an off-duty ABC agent or officer.
Crowder appealed that charge and was set for a jury trial on June 12. The trial was called off, however, and on Friday, Crowder entered an Alford Plea to the amended charge of disorderly conduct. According to Crowder’s lawyer, Jonathan McGrady, the Alford Plea means that Crowder does not admit guilt, but concedes there was enough evidence to find him guilty of disorderly conduct for the March 14, 2013 incident.
“I began representing Mr. Crowder on his appeal,” said McGrady. “I can tell you there was no way Mr. Crowder was going to plead guilty to impersonating an ABC agent, which is considered a moral turpitude offense that Mr. Crowder vehemently denies doing. We felt very confident in an acquittal of the charge before a jury. However, late in the afternoon, the day before the jury trial, the Commonwealth offered to amend the charge to disorderly conduct with a reduced sentence of 30 days in jail, with 26 days suspended, good behavior for 12 months, and a $100 fine, which we agreed to, and the Bristol Circuit Court accepted.”
Crowder was not placed on probation. After the plea agreement Friday, McGrady said Crowder immediately went to Bristol City Jail to begin serving his sentence.
“Mr. Crowder is serving his time immediately in order to put this matter behind him,” McGrady said. “Given the way jail time is calculated for misdemeanors, Mr. Crowder should be released within two days, but possibly as soon as (Saturday morning, June 21).”
According to McGrady, the undisputed evidence was that Mayor Crowder became upset with a disruptive table of young adults seated next to him and his wife at the Bristol Outback Steakhouse.
McGrady said “neither Mr. Crowder nor his wife had consumed any alcohol that day and paid for their meal with a credit card. Mr. Crowder was very concerned that a couple of the persons at the disruptive table were visibly drunk, rowdy, and were continuing to be served alcoholic drinks and even allowed to take to go cups out of the restaurant filled with alcohol. We discovered that one of the persons at the table was a former employee of the restaurant, which may explain why Mr. Crowder’s concerns were not addressed.”
According to McGrady, Crowder has been an ABC manager at his convenience store (Race-In) for several years and believed that it was his civic duty to point out to the restaurant staff the ABC violations he and his wife witnessed. When Mr. Crowder felt that his valid concerns had not been properly addressed, he became upset with the restaurant management and acknowledges in retrospect that his actions that evening could be viewed as disorderly. “Therefore, in order to bring immediate closure to this incident and fully focus on his duties to the citizens of the Town of Hillsville, who just elected him to a second term, Mayor Crowder accepted the plea agreement,” McGrady said.