October 17, 2009 in Washington Voices

Teacher has legal woes

List includes multiple restraining orders
By The Spokesman-Review

University High School teacher Mike Cronin, who was reprimanded earlier this year for reportedly touching a female student and a female staff member inappropriately while drunk, has been charged with driving under the influence three times since 2004 and stated in court documents that he is an alcoholic.

The Central Valley School District’s investigation into Cronin’s behavior also turned up allegations by several students that he appeared to be drunk in class several times in late 2008. A local business owner also said she had barred Cronin from her store because of his drinking and harassment of female staff and customers.

Court records also show that three women have received restraining orders against Cronin, saying he repeatedly harassed them after they had broken off dating relationships. One of the restraining orders was granted shortly after Cronin was put on paid administrative leave in January 2009 while the district investigated allegations of Cronin’s behavior on the job.

In the most recent restraining order in February, the victim wrote that Cronin would call her up to 100 times a day despite her requests that he stop. “Phone calls are abusive and threatening at times,” she wrote. “He has strongly urged me to leave Spokane if I am not going to date/marry him.”

Cronin’s first driving under the influence charge came in February 2004 and was amended to first degree negligent driving, a common change for first-time offenders. His second arrest, which also included a charge of unattended hit and run, was in December 2007. Court documents indicate Cronin’s blood alcohol level was 0.16, twice the legal limit. Cronin was granted deferred prosecution, which means that if he does not violate his probation by having a similar charge in the next five years, the charge will be dismissed. He is also forbidden to consume alcohol.

In requesting deferred prosecution Cronin said his arrest was caused by alcoholism and that he was enrolled in alcohol counseling. “I am truly sorry for these circumstances I placed myself in,” he wrote.

Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Brian O’Brien said the decision whether or not to grant deferred prosecution is solely in the hands of the judge. “The only time we can complain or appeal is if it is violated,” he said.

The program is stricter than the usual probation and includes requirements to attend counseling and an alcohol treatment program. “There are more checks on whether or not you’ve been drinking,” he said. “It’s not an easy program. A lot of people think it’s a way out. It really isn’t.”

The deferred prosecution paperwork was signed by Judge Vance Peterson on April 9, 2008, the same day Cronin pled guilty to a third driving under the influence charge that had also been amended to first degree negligent driving. Cronin was arrested on April 2. That new charge does not violate the deferred prosecution agreement because the arrest occurred before the final paperwork was signed, O’Brien said.

The incidents where Cronin reportedly touched a female student and a female staff member while drunk occurred in October 2008, after Cronin signed the deferred prosecution documents and agreed not to possess or consume alcohol.

Cronin was hired by the school district in 2005. The required criminal background check only turned up the 2004 amended charge of negligent driving, said Superintendent Ben Small. The district was not aware of the more recent arrests or restraining orders and would have no way to find out about them unless someone notified the district, he said.

He could not say whether the district would take further action. “It’s really asking us to deal with a hypothetical,” Small said.

Cronin did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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