May 12, 1995 in Nation/World

County Will Cover Ex-Sheriff’s Legal Bill Agreement Covers $104,090 Crnkovich Owes Attorney After Fighting Federal Racketeering Charges

By The Spokesman-Review
 

FOR THE RECORD: Saturday, May 13, 1995 CORRECTION: Former Shoshone County Sheriff Frank Crnkovich has paid his attorney Sam Eismann. Friday’s edition stated otherwise. The money Shoshone County plans to pay Crnkovich will reimburse him for those attorney’s fees.

Shoshone County will give its former sheriff more than $100,000 to pay for legal bills he racked up defending himself against corruption charges.

County commissioners agreed Monday to pay $104,090 to Frank Crnkovich, according to court records.

That’s how much money Crnkovich owes criminal defense attorney Sam Eismann. The Coeur d’Alene attorney successfully defended the former sheriff in two federal trials.

“Frank and (his wife) Julie are relieved and thankful,” said John A. Bardelli, one of Crnkovich’s attorneys.

Shoshone County officials at first refused to pay his bill, saying they didn’t owe anything because it couldn’t be proved that the sheriff’s alleged crimes had been committed within the scope of his official duties.

So Crnkovich filed suit in 1993.

Eismann maintained that because Crnkovich had been indicted by the FBI while he was sheriff, his legal bills should have been covered by the county.

First District Judge Gary Haman ordered the parties to try reaching an agreement during this week’s “Settlement Week” in Coeur d’Alene.

During Settlement Week, 36 attorneys donated their time to help opposing sides in almost 90 lawsuits try to reach agreement. The process helps clear the overloaded court system and saves the parties money, time and frustration.

The two sides in the Crnkovich case were able to come to an agreement after their meeting Monday.

“I think everyone thinks it’s time to end this chapter of the book and get on with our lives,” said Commissioner Sherry Krulitz.

Crnkovich was Shoshone County sheriff for 16 years and an officer in the Silver Valley for 37 years.

He was charged in 1992 with racketeering and obstruction of law enforcement, along with two counts of gambling.

A federal grand jury alleged Crnkovich had conspired with owners of video poker machines to operate an illegal gambling ring. FBI agents who raided nearly 60 Silver Valley taverns also alleged that Crnkovich had accepted bribes from gamblers and prostitution madams.

The first federal trial in November 1992 ended in a hung jury. Crnkovich was acquitted during a second trial in March 1993.

During the mediation session Monday, commissioners agreed to pay the $104,090 Crnkovich originally had asked for. As part of the agreement, the county does not have to pay about $25,000 in interest that has accrued on that bill, said Dan McGee, Shoshone County prosecutor.

“The true villains in this case, have not had to pay - those who initiated this surreptitious raid, those who were accomplices of the FBI,” Bardelli said. “The overall sad impact is they may never have to pay.”

County commissioners decided to pay the bill rather than take the case to court for several reasons, McGee said. Among them:

Taxpayers would have had to foot the bill to take the case to trial since the county’s insurance would no longer pay the legal bills in the case.

Another trial would have opened old wounds. “We would have had to face going to trial with very reluctant and in some cases, hostile, witnesses,” McGee said.

If the county had lost the case, it might have cost taxpayers more than $200,000 in total legal fees and interest. “I could not justify putting that obligation to the taxpayers,” Krulitz said.

The money to pay off the $104,090 in legal bills has already been set aside in a county trust fund, so no new taxes will have to be levied, Krulitz said.

ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


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