The chairman of the Roosevelt County Commission has suggested that the county sheriff resign.
Commissioner Gary McDonald said Wednesday that he sent a letter to Sheriff Freedom Crawford a week after learning that the sheriff had denied four misdemeanor charges stemming from a bar fight in Lewistown on Aug. 2.
“I just sent him a letter yesterday,” McDonald said. “I suggested that (he resign) since he pleaded not guilty. I felt he should have pleaded guilty, that he should have stood up and taken the punishment for what he did.”
Crawford declined to comment on the resignation request. He referred other questions to his Lewistown attorney, Jon Oldenburg, who did not immediately return a message.
Crawford was cited with four misdemeanor charges — assault, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief and obstructing a police officer — on Aug. 2 after an early-morning fight at the Montana Tavern in Lewistown. Crawford was in Lewistown to help provide security at the Fergus County Courthouse during a hearing on the Barry Beach murder case.
Lewistown City Attorney Monte Boettger said Crawford appeared in Lewistown City Court with Oldenburg on Aug. 11 and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Judge Jack Shields ordered Crawford to post a $3,500 bond within 15 days of the arraignment. Shields also prohibited Crawford from consuming or possessing alcohol or illicit drugs, and from entering any establishment where alcohol is the main item of sale, according to court records.
Boettger said Crawford will be issued a notice later for his next court appearance, a scheduling conference where a deadline for motions and a trial date will be set.
According to the Lewistown Police Department, a bartender called 911 at 12:20 a.m. to report that a large man had thrown another man into a bar window. The victim, a 48-year-old Pennsylvania man, suffered cuts to his face.
Officers were told that the assailant fled on foot, and Crawford was later identified as a suspect. He was found by officers at a nearby hotel and initially denied involvement in the bar incident.
Crawford, 34, has been the Roosevelt County sheriff since 2006.
McDonald said he believes Crawford has done a good job as sheriff but said he was disappointed with the allegations and Crawford’s response. McDonald also said Crawford has not offered to explain what happened to the three-member board of commissioners.
“He should have had the courtesy to come in and give us his side of the story,” he said.
McDonald said that if Crawford does not resign, he should consider imposing some kind of discipline against himself.
“The commission has no power to force him to resign,” McDonald said. “Our hands are tied. The least he should do is discipline himself more severely than a deputy who did the same thing.”
McDonald suggested that the discipline might include a suspension without pay or some similar punishment.