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U-Hi teacher to be jailed

Sat., Oct. 8, 2011

Michael Cronin has history of drunken driving charges

University High School teacher Michael Cronin was placed on paid administrative leave in August and has been sentenced to serve nearly a year in jail after being found guilty of two criminal charges in September.

Additional charges from a separate incident in Pend Oreille County – resisting arrest and obstructing a law enforcement officer – are still pending.

It’s the second administrative leave for the teacher. Cronin, 44, was placed on administrative leave for several months in 2009 while Central Valley School District officials investigated claims that he had inappropriately touched a female student and a female staff member while allegedly drunk at school. He received a letter of reprimand for his actions and went back to work at the beginning of the 2009-’10 school year.

The most recent arrest in Pend Oreille County was on Aug. 29, a few minutes after midnight, when Cronin was the passenger of a car stopped near Newport on suspicion of driving under the influence. He interrupted officers and interfered in their duties, then refused to get out of the car when told to, said Pend Oreille County deputy prosecuting attorney Jeremy Schmidt. “He wasn’t allowing himself to be taken into custody,” Schmidt said.

The two arresting deputies wrote in their reports that Cronin told the driver not to cooperate and told law enforcement officers that he was the driver’s attorney. Deputy Dan Dice wrote that Cronin was “highly intoxicated” and admitted he had been drinking. Deputy Matt McKay wrote that Cronin jumped back in the car and attempted to crawl into the driver’s seat when he was told he was being arrested for obstructing a law enforcement officer. McKay wrote that he and another deputy struggled with Cronin to get him out of the car and handcuffed.

Cronin used to be a practicing attorney, but his status as a member of the Washington State Bar Association is “inactive.”

On Sept. 29, Cronin was sentenced in Spokane on a 2010 charge of “physical control,” which is similar to driving under the influence but applies when an arresting officer doesn’t witness the impaired person driving. He was found guilty and sentenced to 364 days in jail with 94 days suspended, 150 days of electronic home monitoring and 12 months of monitored probation.

According to the police report on that incident, officers were called to the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Cedar Street at 1:43 a.m., Aug. 4, 2010, after someone reported a dark Jeep Wrangler stopped in the middle of the road with no lights on. When an officer arrived Cronin was standing next to the Jeep with the door open, the report said.

Cronin admitted having two drinks and his speech was slurred, but he refused a blood-alcohol test, the report said.

Cronin has three prior arrests on suspicion of driving under the influence. Two charges were amended to first degree negligent driving, a common change for first-time offenders. In the third case Cronin applied for and received deferred prosecution, which meant that the charge would be dismissed if Cronin didn’t violate his probation by having a similar charge in the next five years. He was also forbidden to consume alcohol.

At a hearing on Sept. 2, Cronin’s deferred prosecution was revoked and he was sentenced to 364 days in jail with 229 days suspended and five years of probation, Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Brian O’Brien said. Cronin is appealing that sentence, O’Brien said.

Cronin was also facing a misdemeanor assault charge from an incident that occurred on June 4, but it was dismissed as part of a plea agreement. Witnesses told police that Cronin hit a neighbor in the face and also spit tobacco juice on him, according to a police report. The witnesses also said that Cronin appeared to be drunk.

He was put on paid administrative leave on Aug. 29 when Central Valley School District learned of the new criminal charges against him.

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