Ex-cop not guilty of harassment
A jury needed just 15 minutes of deliberation Thursday before returning a not guilty verdict in the trial of a former Grand Junction Police Department officer accused of harassment.
Courtney Crooks, 24, who resigned from the department in September after his arrest on domestic violence allegations involving his wife, was acquitted on a lone count of misdemeanor harassment.
Crooks offered a broad smile and hugs for his wife, friends and family after the jury’s decision was read in County Court Judge Craig Henderson’s courtroom. He declined comment afterward.
“I’m glad this family’s ordeal is over with,” said Martha Kent, Crooks’ attorney.
The two-man, four-woman jury received the case just before 5 p.m., while attorneys involved in the matter were still chatting in the hallways after closing arguments, when word of a verdict spread.
Jurors heard testimony starting around 1:30 p.m., while Deputy District Attorney Kris Miller’s case included testimony from Crooks’ wife and two Mesa County Sheriff’s deputies.
Kent presented no witnesses.
“If touching someone were a crime, we’d all be in a lot of trouble,” Kent told jurors in closing arguments. “There has to be bad intent.”
Both sides were largely in agreement about what happened on the night of Aug. 18, 2009, in the Crooks’ home, where months of tension over money exploded in a heated argument between husband and wife, briefly turning physical.
Crooks’ wife testified she arrived home that night to find her husband on the phone, making arrangements to have television cable service restored.
Crooks’ wife, a stay-at-home mother of the couple’s two children, tracked the family’s bills and had disconnected cable service to save money, according to testimony. Stress hit a boiling point as they tried to make mortgage payments on two properties, while Crooks was increasingly absent from his family, taking regular overtime shifts to pay monthly bills.
On the night of Aug. 18, the couple clashed after Crooks had restored cable service. After an argument, Crooks’ wife testified she decided to leave with both of their children.
“I knew we both needed some space,” she said, later adding, “I didn’t want him yelling and swearing in front of a 3-year-old.”
The woman testified that while she was standing at a doorway, her husband took a “firm” grip to the back of her neck and redirected her several steps back inside the home.
“He wasn’t hurting me in any way,” she said. “He was just wondering where I was going, asking where I was taking the kids.”
She testified her husband expressed concerns only about the young children, one an infant who was asleep, being taken out of the home late at night.
The couple were soon in a nose-to-nose confrontation, her back against a wall, with Crooks “leaning off and on” in the direction of his wife as she held their infant son.
“What are you going to do, kill me in front of your kids?” she told her husband, according to testimony.
“You said that to provoke him?” Miller asked.
“Yeah, pretty much,” she replied. She testified she wasn’t scared. “I was just mad.”
Crooks then took the infant and placed the child back in bed. She left with their 3-year-old, walked to a neighbor’s house and left the boy there, before returning to the house to pick up her infant. She and the children stayed the night at a friend’s home.
In a series of questions asked by the jury, she testified she and Crooks remain married and she never wanted him prosecuted.
When asked if she resisted when her husband grabbed her at the back at the neck, she laughed as she gave her response. “He wasn’t hurting me, so there was no reason to,” she said.
In closing arguments, Miller suggested the woman had “minimized” the events of Aug. 18, adding, “She can’t know what his intent was that night.”
“I would submit she was scared and alarmed,” he said. “Why did she leave with her kids and not return that night?”
According to testimony, a neighbor, who at the time was a Grand Junction police colleague of Crooks’, ended up reporting the incident to Crooks’ immediate superior officer,, spurring the investigation that led to Crooks’ arrest Aug. 28.
Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Dillon testified that he met with Crooks on Aug. 22 at Crooks’ home and asked the fellow officer about what had happened days earlier. In a demonstration that was suggested by Crooks, he acted out what he said were the events of Aug. 18, placing his hand on Dillon’s left shoulder.
Dillon wrote in a report that Crooks “lightly grabbed” his wife at the shoulder.