By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
A Wilson man is asking a state district court to overturn his convictions stemming from allegations he kissed two teenage women at his home, saying prosecutors withheld information that could have affected his trial.
The case of William Michael Crothers, convicted in April 2020 on misdemeanor charges of “unlawful contact” and permitting a house party to be held at his home, has been taken up by Alan Dershowitz, a constitutional attorney known for serving on the “dream team” that defended O.J. Simpson against murder charges.
No date for a hearing of the appeal has been set.
In his appeal of his circuit court conviction, Crothers is arguing that prosecutors improperly withheld information about promises they made not to prosecute teenage witnesses in the case, information that could have changed the outcome of his jury trial.
“This appeal centers on bedrock constitutional rights common to every criminal defendant in this country, including the right to due process and the right to effective cross-examination …” said the appeal filed with state district court in Teton County. “The defendant here … was deprived of these rights in his trial and conviction for three misdemeanor crimes. Most offensive, the prosecution withheld critical impeachment evidence … claiming that the benefit conferred to the witnesses could not technically be considered an agreement.”
According to the appeal, Crothers’ teenage son in May 2019 invited some friends to Crothers’ home while Crothers was attending a charity event.
The crowd grew beyond those invited and some teenagers brought alcohol and marijuana with them.
Crothers had taken a taxi from the event to his home because he was inebriated, the appeal said. When he reached his home, 20 to 30 teenagers were inside it, many of them longtime family friends.
One young girl who was a stranger to Crothers, who admitted being inebriated at the party, later told other partygoers that Crothers had kissed her and grabbed her buttocks.
However, none of the other people at the party saw Crothers grab the woman and only one other person said she saw the kiss occur. The woman’s boyfriend said he was unaware of the kiss “even though (the woman) was sitting on his lap when the alleged kiss occurred” the appeal said.
The appeal said the party was widely discussed at Jackson Hole High School the following week and the school resource officer began interviewing students about it. The officer issued three citations against Crothers for hosting a house party for minors, breaching the peace and unlawful contact with the teenage woman.
The Teton County Attorney’s office added two more charges, one of sexual battery on allegations Crothers grabbed the young woman’s buttocks and one of unlawful contact based on a kiss on the cheek given by Crothers to young woman who was a longtime friend of the family.
Before the trial began, another charge of unlawful contact had been filed alleging Crothers had kissed the first woman twice —- once in his house and once in his garage, although the teenager herself “testified that she did not remember being kissed in the garage.
”Crothers’ prosecution relied largely on the testimony of some of the teenagers who attended the party, the appeal said.
The jury in circuit court found Crothers innocent of sexual battery and one count of unlawful contact. He was found guilty of two counts of unlawful contact and permitting a house party where minors are present, all misdemeanors. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
But after the trial, Crothers and his attorneys discovered that prosecutors had promised the teenagers who testified against Crothers that if they testified, they would not be charged with underage drinking or use or possession of marijuana.
Based on this information, Crothers asked for a new trial under what is referred to as a “Brady” rule violation. The name refers to a case in which prosecutors purposefully withheld information from defense attorneys that could have had an impact on a defendant’s trial.
“In sum, direct and circumstantial evidence shows that the state failed to disclose Deputy (Prosecutor Clark) Allan’s promises to the teenage witnesses that they would not be subject to criminal liability for underage consumption of alcohol and possession of drugs if they testified against Mr. Crothers,” the appeal said.
Crothers is seeking to have his conviction overturned based on the “Brady” rule violation, as well as the refusal of the circuit court to admit as evidence social media videos that would have impeached the credibility of several of the witnesses.
The appeal also accused prosecutors of improperly inflating the charges against Brothers and orchestrating a media campaign to heighten public scrutiny of Crothers, all of which the appeal said hurt his ability to obtain a fair trial.
It also said the state’s “unlawful contact” statute is unconstitutionally vague because it was defined in Crothers’ case as “unlawfully touching … in a rude manner.”
The lawsuit also asks that Crothers’ convictions be overturned because insufficient evidence exists to support his convictions on charges of unlawful contact.
Dershowitz is known for taking on high-profile cases and has represented famous clients including boxer Mike Tyson, businesswoman Leona Helmsley and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.