Richland man pleads innocent to sex with underage girls

By Kristin M. Kraemer, Herald staff writerJune 2, 2011 

KENNEWICK -- A Richland man pleaded innocent Wednesday to allegations that he paid money to have sex with two underage girls after answering an internet ad.

Chad Andrew Crithfield, 40, originally was expected to plead guilty and resolve the new case. But a week after his lawyer made that statement, Crithfield showed up in Benton County Superior Court with a new attorney and plans to take the case to trial.

Crithfield has an Aug. 8 trial date on three counts of fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation, a gross misdemeanor.

Prosecutors claim he responded to an ad on backpage.com and made arrangements to meet the young women at a Kennewick hotel. Two of the girls were underage while a third was older than 18, court documents said.

Five others have been charged in what Kennewick police described as a prostitution ring -- the woman accused of organizing it, her husband and three alleged male customers.

Crithfield, a Tri-City home loan manager, hired Scott Johnson, who told the Tri-City Herald last month that his client "got involved in the situation having no idea of what was truly going on." Johnson said Crithfield was "obviously embarrassed" and hoped to wrap up the case immediately and "plead out."

Crithfield's first appearance was delayed one week. On Wednesday, Johnson handed up to the court a notice to withdrawal, which says "based upon my duties under the rules of professional conduct, I can no longer ethically continue to represent my client." He gave no further explanation.

Crithfield now is represented by Bob Thompson, who asked that his client be allowed to travel throughout Washington while the case is pending.

* Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com

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