KENNEWICK -- A Benton County judge said Friday that a Richland mortgage banker linked to a prostitution ring deserves jail time to send a message to the community and the underage victims.
Chad Andrew Crithfield, 41, admitted he paid to have sex in 2010 with three girls, two of whom were under 18.
For his guilty pleas to three counts of prostitution, Superior Court Judge Bruce Spanner ordered Crithfield to serve 37 days in jail. The time can be done on work release.
"This isn't a crime where you made a mistake ... You made some decision and you knew it was wrong," Spanner said. "We all know prostitution is wrong, regardless of the age of women."
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Crithfield's new defense attorney, Carl Oreskovich of Spokane, had suggested his client serve no jail time, but rather be ordered to complete community service. He said Crithfield has no prior criminal history, has given back to his community both financially and by volunteering, and has already been punished by the public humiliation he faces on a daily basis.
"I'm not telling you he doesn't need to be held accountable. He needs to be held accountable, but he's different," Oreskovich said.
Deputy Prosecutor Julie Long recommended the 37-day sentence in exchange for Crithfield's guilty pleas to the misdemeanor offenses. The original charges were two felony counts of commercial sex abuse of a minor and one count of prostitution.
If he had been convicted as charged, he faced a sentence of up to four years in prison.
But, Long agreed to reduce the felony charges because the victims didn't want to testify and they said the prostitution ring organizer had them lie about their true ages, court documents said.
Five others were charged in connection with the prostitution ring, and they have all pleaded guilty and served their time. The other three men who paid to have sex with the girls, received two-month jail sentences with work release, Long said.
She said the shorter sentence was recommended for Crithfield because he didn't patronize the girls as often as the other men, and when he was contacted by Kennewick police detectives he gave a full confession.
Crithfield also received a two-year deferred sentence, which means he can ask the court to remove the conviction from his record if he does not commit any violations in two years.
"He is already getting a benefit of the difference," she said. "Jail time is appropriate ... perhaps it will deter any behavior so he knows the consequences."
Crithfield was charged in May after Kennewick police uncovered an alleged prostitution ring that they say happened in the fall and winter of 2010.
He responded to escort service ads on a website and made arrangements to meet young women at a Kennewick hotel and twice paid to have sex with three girls.
Prosecutors also say the organizer, Melissa Marie Salsbury, recruited high school girls to earn money by dancing for men. She then threatened the girls and forced them to have sex with the men who answered the ads, court documents said.
Several of Crithfield's supporters were in court Friday and numerous letters on his behalf were submitted to the court, but were not released Friday.
Long said she believed the letters submitted contradict Crithfield's actions in the case.
She acknowledged he did confess to Detective Rick Runge when he was first interviewed about the prostitution, but since then he had not taken responsibility for his actions. It's taken a year and four different defense attorneys to get to Friday's guilty plea, she noted.
The letters also apparently said Crithfield is committed to his wife, Kristi, and their two children, ages 7 and 9.
"The defendant was not thinking about his wife or his family when he logged onto backpage.com, drove to the hotel and paid to have sexual intercourse with those minors -- looking at those girls, you know they are minors," Long said. "... His actions made the girls victims and also made his wife and children victims. He solely brought that on himself."
During the nearly hour-long sentencing hearing, Crithfield's attorney took time to describe all the good things Crithfield has done in his life and for the community. He said he's worked for 20 years as a mortgage banker, rising to the position of branch manager for Sterling Savings and supervising 19 employees.
But, Oreskovich said Crithfield he was put on leave and eventually lost his job after the media reported the charges. He has since been hired by another mortgage company, but is having to start over at the bottom, Oreskovich said.
"Sometimes people who are successful in life, sometimes pay a punishment different than others," he said. "Some people, because of their standings, suffer a lot harder in their fall."
Crithfield immediately began counseling and has been trying to salvage his marriage and became a better family man, Oreskovich said.
The defense attorney also explained that Crithfield was suffering from depression after the death of his mother. His mother was an addict and Crithfield had taken part in interventions to try to help her, Oreskovich said. When she died, he acted out in anger and some "self-indulgence and selfish acts," he said.
Crithfield spoke briefly, apologizing the Long and Runge and his supporters -- both in the courtroom and in the community.
"My actions have created great embarrassment, great suffering," he said. "And I am going to work diligently to repair those relationships to the community, my family and the rest of the people I let down."
Judge Spanner said he appreciated that Crithfield was standing before him accepting responsibility for his actions, but agreed with the state it's taken a long time to get there. He said he had to consider the destructive impact Crithfield's actions had on the victims and their futures.
"There's a reason why it's against the law to have sex with minors ... it affects their lives and their ability to have relationships," Spanner said. "I do find that you knew or should have known that this would have a long-term impact on these young ladies."
He also said understands Crithfield has faced public humiliation, but added "for those of us, me and you who are given great privilege, more is required and I don't think you've lived up to that."
Spanner said he'd be "slapping" the victims if he didn't impose any jail time.
Crithfield was previously authorized to attend a wedding in Mexico from May 15-20, so Spanner ordered Crithfield to report to the Benton County jail on May 23.