Del Norte County Chief Probation Officer Tom Crowell avoided formal probation of his own Tuesday.
Crowell pleaded no contest to a single count of theft by embezzlement as part of a plea deal with the state Attorney General’s Office that also included a delayed entry of judgment.
The deal offers Crowell the opportunity for a clean slate if he attends gambling addiction counseling and steers clear of gambling establishments for two years and pays a $661 fine.
“If he meets these conditions, the case will be dismissed,” said Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office.
Crowell did not attend the hearing, nor has he been required to appear at any of his previous hearings. He will not have to appear at future hearings for reports on his progress either, court documents state.
The judgment does not mean that Crowell has been convicted. Instead, it offers a pseudo-probation term that if successfully completed removes any record of his arrest, though it will appear in any background checks related to a peace officer position.
Crowell was accused of stealing $400 twice from the bank account of the Law Enforcement Administrators of Del Norte County last September.
LEADN is composed of all the local law enforcement agencies, from parks to Pelican Bay State Prison. It helps provide training to officers and devises plans to improve service to the community. Crowell was vice-president of the association at the time.
Withdrawals from the organization’s bank account were discovered in October and brought to the attention of LEADN’s president, sheriff’s Commander Bill Steven, who subsequently questioned Crowell, documents state.
Crowell told Steven he was having financial problems, documents state.
Authorities from the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office were called in to handle the matter and discovered Crowell had “gambled about $82,000” at local casinos from January through October last year, documents state.
The Attorney General’s Office filed two felony embezzlement charges in January following Crowell’s November arrest, but then amended the charges to two misdemeanors counts of theft by embezzlement.
After Crowell served a short spell on unpaid administrative leave, the county Board of Supervisors decided to place him on paid administrative leave and gave him a desk job outside of the Probation Department handling the county’s transition for prison realignment — state-mandated reform that releases certain inmates to county supervision following their prison term.
In February, the supervisors decided to reinstate Crowell as chief probation Officer pending the result of his case. That decision was mainly based on the charges being reduced to misdemeanors and the fact that the case did not involve county money, officials said. However, LEADN’s dues are typically paid by the agencies that employ its members.
It remains unclear how supervisors will handle the latest development in Crowell’s case.
Supervisors Michael Sullivan and David Finnigan and county administrative officer Jay Sarina left for Washington, D.C., on Wednesday and are not expected to return until next week, which is likely the soonest the board would meet regarding Crowell, said assistant county administrator Neal Lopez.
Regardless of what the board decides or whether Crowell successfully completes his court orders, he will likely have to rebuild trust with some of the LEADN agencies.
“Take into consideration the fact that he’s pled to theft,” said Steven. “The theft was from all of the local, state and federal law enforcement entities within the county and that raises serious trust issues with fellow law enforcement officers with respect to future interactions.”