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BRISTOL – Hillsville Mayor Greg Crowder entered an Alford plea to an amended charge of disorderly conduct before the Bristol Circuit Court on Friday, and has received a four-day jail sentence, according to a news release.
Crowder was originally charged with impersonating an ABC agent, and was found guilty by the Bristol General District Court and sentenced to 90 days in jail with 60 days suspended and a $500 fine.
Without admitting any guilt, Crowder's Alford plea stipulated that there was sufficient evidence to find him guilty of disorderly conduct for an incident that happened in a Bristol steakhouse on March 14, 2013.
After the original conviction was made in January, Crowder immediately submitted an appeal, which was set for a jury trial on June 12th.
“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," said Hilsville Attorney Jonathan McGrady, who represented Crowder on his appeal.
But on the day before the jury trial, the Commonwealth offered to amend the charge to disorderly conduct. The new conviction would give Crowder a reduced sentence of 30 days in jail with 26 days suspended, good behavior for 12 months, and a $100 fine, which was accepted.
Crowder was not placed on probation.
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 an Outback Steakhouse in Bristol back in March 2013.
"Mr. Crowder was very concerned that a couple [of the disruptive persons] 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," said McGrady. "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.”
He added that Crowder and his wife had not consumed any alcohol that day, and that they paid for their meal with a credit card.
Crowder has been an ABC manager at his convenience store for several years. He "believed that it was his civic duty to point out to the restaurant staff the ABC violations he and his wife witnessed," said Crowder. "When Mr. Crowder felt that his valid concerns had not been properly addressed, he became upset with the restaurant management."
McGrady noted that Crowder has acknowledged 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, [Crowder] accepted the plea agreement," McGrady said.
According to a representative of the court system, Crowder may also have credit for time served applied to his jail sentence.