William “Mike” Crothers’ jail time and appeal are both on hold because his attorneys say prosecutors hid evidence during their client’s criminal trial and so he deserves a new one.
“The prosecution in this case broke the law and violated William Crothers’ constitutional rights by withholding evidence that several witnesses were granted immunity,” attorneys Tom Fleener and Devon Petersen wrote in an email statement to the News&Guide on Tuesday. “Justice requires that Mr. Crothers be granted a new trial.”
In a motion, filed Oct. 9 in Teton County Circuit Court, Fleener stated “the prosecution failed to disclose numerous immunity agreements entered into with the prosecution’s key witnesses in this case.”
Fleener said in doing so the Teton County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office suppressed evidence.
In the motion Fleener said defense counsel filed “numerous public records requests on the various public entities involved in this case” that confirmed “the prosecution illegally withheld critical evidence from the defendant.”
Fleener points to an email from a parent of one of the teenage witnesses that was sent to Chief Deputy Prosecutor Clark Allan and Prosecutor Erin Weisman before Crothers’ criminal trial.
In the email the parent said she was concerned about the teenagers getting in trouble for underage drinking and drugs at a party at Crothers’ house.
“Is there some sort of statement that could be made either in writing or otherwise, assuring these families that their kids will not be held legally accountable for underage drinking, etc. while on the stand for this case?” the parent asked in the email, which is included in the court filings.
Allan responded four days later.
“I have started the process of meeting with all the witnesses, including parents who are interested,” Allan said in his response. “We’ll reassure them about drinking, etc.”
Fleener takes issue with that last sentence.
“The prosecutor, unbeknownst to the defendant, made an immunity deal with all of the teenage witnesses for the state that they would not be prosecuted for drinking or illegal drugs — the same type of crime the defendant was charged with,” he wrote in his motion.
Last year Crothers was charged with sexual battery, unlawful contact, breach of peace and permitting an underage house party. The case stemmed from a May 2019 house party at his Wilson home.
Witnesses testified that Crothers came home drunk to the party and kissed and groped teenage girls.
After a trial in February in Teton County Circuit Court a jury convicted Crothers for unlawful touching and permitting the illegal house party. He was acquitted of sexual battery and the other charges.
Judge James Radda sentenced Crothers to 60 days in the Teton County Jail with 30 days suspended.
His sentence is on hold because Crothers’ attorneys filed a notice of appeal in Teton County District Court.
But due to his motion for a new trial the appeal is also on hold.
Fleener says the “immunity agreements” that Allan made with the teenage witnesses would have been favorable to Crothers, which the Wyoming Supreme Court says is a requirement to win their argument for a new trial based on the Brady violation they allege.
Defense counsel point to Brady v. Maryland, a U.S. Supreme Court case that established the prosecution must turn over all evidence that could exonerate a defendant.
Fleener wrote in his motion that it was after the trial that Crothers “became concerned that something inappropriate had happened and that he had not received a fair trial.”
That’s why they filed the records request that uncovered emails and text messages between witnesses, their parents and some government employees.
“The case was clearly a close one, as the jury deliberated for over six hours and the convictions were not come by easily,” the motion states. “The knowledge of the immunity agreements would have pushed the jury over the line to a different result.”
Prosecutors have until early December to respond.