Crowther appears in court on charges

ALAMOSA — William Crowther, 61, of Sanford, appeared in court on Monday morning in relation to charges that he allegedly committed sexual assault of a child by one in a position of trust, a class 3 felony, and child abuse (non-injury), a class 2 misdemeanor.

Crowther was superintendent of the Sargent School District until, according to redacted arrest documents obtained by the Valley Courier from the Conejos County court, he resigned on Feb. 6, two days before Feb. 8, when the Conejos County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) received a report of the allegations.

A March 6 press release from the Conejos County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) said that the sheriff's office launched an extensive investigation immediately upon receiving the report. Court documents reflect the investigation was conducted by CCSO with assistance from the Children's Advocacy Center. This agency is part of the Office of Justice Programs in the U.S. Department of Justice. The investigation results were filed with 12th Judicial District Attorney Anne Kelly's office, resulting in a warrant for Crowther's arrest being issued and executed on March 6.

Crowther, who is out of custody on bond, appeared in court in person with his defense attorney, David Lipka. District Attorney Kelly and a deputy DA were in court for the people, with Conejos County Judge Jason Kelly presiding.

This was Crowther's first appearance in court, and Lipka advised the court his client was waiving advisement on the charges, meaning the charges would not be read aloud.

DA Kelly then stated that, due to both the nature of the charges, plus a specific request she has received from the victim's family, she is requesting a mandatory protection order be issued that prohibits Crowther from having any contact with anyone under the age of 18, including members of his family. She referenced the relationship between the defendant and the victim outlined in the sworn arrest statement as the cause for her request.

She also requested that the protection order be extended to specific members of the victim's family, including the victim's siblings. Kelly told the court she has spoken with members of the victim's family who said, "the defendant has reached out to them," there are concerns that there will be "talking" among other family members to dissuade them.

Kelly was clear that she has no evidence that an attempt to dissuade the family is taking place, but she feels there is the potential for that to happen, given the dynamics of the situation.

Citing those same "dynamics," Kelly said that the victim's father and mother would also like to be included in that protection order due to concerns with "persuasion and manipulation."

In response, Lipka clarified that there was no evidence of witness tampering and described the request as "prophylactic." He also expressed concern that "no contact with anyone under the age of 18," is comprehensive but had no objection to a protection order that also included the victim's siblings and parents, adding that tampering with a witness was a serious charge and reiterating that there is no evidence of that occurring.

Kelly responded that no contact with anyone under 18 is standard "in a case like this," especially given the defendant spent his professional life in contact with children. According to the allegations made in the case, she said, the behavior he has been accused of "had been going on unreported for over a year with a close family member."

She also stated concerns that, based on the arrest affidavit, Crowther did not clearly understand the serious nature of the charges and thought counseling would be sufficient to "help him get through it."

Lipka responded that the evidence he had received in the case shows that "Mr. Crowther has been very forthcoming" and DA Kelly's portrayal to the court was "not entirely accurate."

Judge Kelly said he had read the affidavit and is concerned about the allegations but confirmed that Crowther was no longer employed in his former role and there were no allegations outside of the family.

Kelly agreed that he was no longer employed but said Crowther "has a very extensive family."

Judge Kelly ruled that the protection order will specify no contact with the victim, the victim's siblings, and parents, plus no contact with a family member under the age of 18, whether they are in the immediate or extended family. He also made certain that Crowther understood that tampering with a witness, which includes harassing, molesting, or intimidating any witness in the case, is a serious act.

Crowther indicated he understood.

Lipka told the court that, since Crowther is not in custody, the defense is "not in any particular hurry" and requested the next court date be set several months in the future as his schedule is busy.

Judge Kelly acknowledged that there is much evidence for defense counsel to review and set a status hearing for May 15.

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