Former lawmaker cites ‘sloppy bookkeeping’
The plea deal offered to former state lawmaker and prosecutor Sam Krone — for stealing more than $9,600 from the local bar association — was a lenient one, the presiding judge said last week.
“You are getting, in my view, a recommendation for an exceedingly lenient disposition in your favor on this felony charge,” District Court Judge Marvin Tyler told Krone on Thursday, as he prepared to sentence him on one felony county of larceny and then one misdemeanor count of theft.
However, Tyler said he believed the deal offered by the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office was also fair. The judge approved the proposal, ordering Krone to serve 15 days in jail, 20 days of house arrest and 240 hours of community service. He’ll be allowed to schedule the jail time anytime within the next six months, because “things happen,” Judge Tyler said. Krone will also be placed on supervised probation for three years. During that time he must obey the law, get permission from his probation agent before leaving the state and not drink alcohol, among other conditions. He also must pay full restition in the coming days.
If Krone can complete the probation, the felony charge will be dismissed under a deferred prosecution agreement and only the misdemeanor will remain a part of his record. Two other felony and three other misdemeanor counts of larceny and theft — all relating to money that was stolen from the Park County Bar Association several years ago — were dismissed as part of the deal.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Mike Causey, who prosecuted the case, said the sentence would result in the bar association being repaid and ensure Krone is supervised while having “the opportunity to learn from his mistakes and go on.”
At Thursday’s hearing, Krone apologized to the judge, the State of Wyoming and to the bar association.
“I feel embarrassed and ashamed about all this, and I think that’s important to note,” Krone said, adding that he takes full responsibility.
“This was my screw-up, my mistake,” he said. “I did everything I could to try and remedy it right away.”
Charging documents, used as part of the basis for Krone’s guilty pleas, say he stole the thousands of dollars from the county bar association between March 2010 and October 2013. Krone reportedly told the bar association’s president in 2015 that the organization still had a couple thousand dollars in the bank, but when she obtained a bank statement in April 2016, she discovered it held only $88.90.
Krone had sole access to the group’s accounts as the group’s treasurer — a volunteer position he held from 2002 to 2016.
“I would routinely purchase items with my own either debit or credit cards on behalf of the association and I would routinely commingle association funds with my personal funds for that period of time,” he testified Thursday. “I did a very poor job of being a steward of these funds and I was certainly a sloppy bookkeeper in keeping those funds and as a result of that, I took more bar association funds than I was entitled to.”
When he was later confronted by Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Brady Patrick — who analyzed bank records and concluded that $9,633.17 was stolen — Krone said he was “shocked” to learn so much money was unaccounted for.
“I certainly never intended it to be that way and I take full responsibility for that,” Krone said.
In a court filing earlier this year, the AG’s office said it had evidence that Krone’s personal finances were “deteriorating” around the time of the thefts and that he’d been borrowing money from friends and co-workers. To show that Krone’s actions were not a mistake, the AG’s office said it planned to present an analysis of his personal and campaign finance accounts and his academic background in finance.
However, Causey, the state prosecutor, appeared to back off that contention last week.
“We are aware of the fact that Mr. Krone was a legislator, he was a prosecutor, he had degrees in finance, but certainly we look at this and think that the explanations that he’s given make sense,” said Causey. “Certainly, we hold him to a higher standard, and we believe that the higher standard should be upheld, but we also believe in trying to achieve fairness, if you will, for all parties.”
Causey had argued for five years of supervised probation, “given the nature of the crime, given the manner in which is was conducted, given the length of time that this overall series of events occurred.” Krone’s defense attorney, Charles Pelkey, had argued for three years of unsupervised probation. Krone is not the type of defendant who needs supervision, argued Pelkey, a Laramie Democrat who served with Krone in the Legislature.
Judge Tyler opted for supervised probation, saying he felt that was consistent with other deferrals, while imposing it for three years; he explained that a probation agent would likely recommend giving a nonviolent offender Krone an early discharge anyway.
Judge Tyler ordered Krone to stay away from alcohol, bars and other places where he might be tempted to get drunk while on probation.
That was spurred by a couple of confidential presentence reports — which were not detailed in open court — that outlined Krone’s problems with alcohol.
“It is an issue I want to consider and do something about one way or the other,” Tyler said.
Pelkey said his client had no objection to being prohibited from drinking — saying Krone had complied with the judge’s order to not drink “to excess” while the case was pending.
“This last year, I’ve personally seen a change in Mr. Krone,” he said, adding, “It’s a noticeable change and it’s a change that has been noticed by others in our circle, mutual friends.”
Outside of a toast at his September wedding, Krone avoided alcohol for “the bulk” of the past year, Pelkey told the court.
Speaking generally, Krone said the last year had been difficult.
“It’s been hard to go through sometimes, but I’ve got great support from my wife,” he said. “And I’ve tried to be the best person I could be this past year.”
Krone’s fall from grace started in February 2016, while the Republican was serving in the state House of Representatives in Cheyenne. It was then that he received an email saying he’d been fired from his job as a deputy Park County attorney for profane and taunting text messages he’d sent to a friend being prosecuted by that office.
The criminal investigation into the thefts from the bar association’s account began about a month after the text messages became public. Because of Krone’s 12 years of work for the Park County Attorney’s Office, the prosecution of the case was handled by the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office.
The AG’s office filed the charges against Krone in late July 2016 — just a few weeks before the Republican primary, where Krone was trying to keep his seat for a fourth term. Krone — who’d hoped to resolve the matter without criminal charges — described himself then as “shell shocked.”
In an appearance on KODI-AM’s Speak Your Piece program, just days before the election, a listener called in to ask why Krone was being charged right before the primary.
“The timing is just completely crazy and it’s ... yeah, I’ll just leave it at that,” Krone answered. “It seems suspicious.”
During that same Speak Your Piece appearance, Krone told listeners that, “I’m going to have a vigorous defense for those charges and ultimately I think I’ll be exonerated.”
(Krone was defeated by Rep. Scott Court, R-Cody, in the House District 24 primary.)
Krone filed a motion this year asking to have the evidence against him suppressed, but agreed to a plea deal before Judge Tyler ruled on the request.
Last week, Krone thanked both the attorney general’s office and DCI for their professionalism in the case and apologized for the additional hassle of having to prosecute a former prosecutor. Because of his role in putting local residents behind bars over the years, Krone will need to serve his jail time in a different county.
In sentencing Krone, Judge Tyler said the former prosecutor’s actions had marred the clean “slate” that lawyers receive when they start their legal careers.
“Certainly you should recognize, and I think you do, that it’s going to take you a lot of work in order to get that slate somewhat erased and that time will blur some of these sharp feelings and thoughts that some people have about what’s occurred here,” Tyler said, referring to confidential victim impact statements from the bar association.
Krone pledged to work hard to earn the probation.
Tyler is from Pinedale and, prior to presiding over the criminal case, had never met Krone.
In the months since the proposed plea agreement was made public, a few Park County residents called Judge Tyler’s office and “wanted to talk to me about what to do in your case,” the judge told Krone. However, in accordance with judicial rules, none of those people were allowed to speak to the judge.
Krone still faces the prospect of punishment from the Wyoming State Bar. It suspended his ability to practice law shortly after the criminal charges were filed last year while it conducted its own investigation.