Colorado Springs-Gazette: Attorneys from both sides satisfied with Don Armstrong plea agreement

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Attorneys for the Rev. Donald Armstrong and the Pueblo District Attorney’s office were pleased Monday with the plea agreement in the criminal case involving the former rector of Grace and St. Stephen’s Church in Colorado Springs.

A Fourth Judicial District grand jury indicted Armstrong in May 2009 on 20 felony counts of embezzling $392,000 from Grace Church. Armstrong on Friday pled no contest to one felony count, according to El Paso County court files. Though Armstrong in his plea doesn’t admit guilt, the court views it in a legal sense as a guilty plea.

As part of the agreement, Armstrong admitted guilt to a new charge, misdemeanor theft, said Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut. A sentencing hearing on this charge will happen before the end of the year.

Armstrong’s sentence could include a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 18 months in the El Paso County Jail. Misdemeanor charges are brought for thefts between $500 and $1,000.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC BishopsTEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: Colorado* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology


Posted September 21, 2010 at 7:30 am

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The URL for this article is http://www.kendallharmon.net/t19/index.php/t19/article/32277/



1. Kendall Harmon wrote:

from M R :

Armstrong’s church says he pled no contest to a single misdemeanor.  Episcopal lawyer says he pled to one felony and an additional misdemeanor.

Do you know which is correct?

September 21, 7:36 am | [comment link]
2. Kendall Harmon wrote:

From LF—

Just read the two posts re Armstrong’s plea agreement—the one (church statement) says he plead guilty to a misdemeanor, the other (the Denver Post) says he plead no contest to a felony and entered “an effective guilty plea to a further misdemeanor”.  Do you have any further clarification?

September 21, 7:37 am | [comment link]
3. Kendall Harmon wrote:

From F C I F:

This is an excellent statement from the Church.  A misdemeanor without admission of guilt, says the prosecutors did not wish to go forward and wanted to give the Church and Fr. Armstrong a means to ends this in an honorable way.  This is not to say everything was done perfectly correctly, but that there were no grounds for a criminal trial.  Likewise, the Church points out that airing the problems and conflicts of the EC in the courts and media does damage to everyone’s Christian witness and does harm.  I am glad this is ended.

I hope the Church, Fr. Armstrong and the Diocese can let go and move forward.

I will be praying for everyone involved.

September 21, 7:39 am | [comment link]
4. Kendall Harmon wrote:

from P.L.—
I will never believe (short of Father Armstrong’s saying so) that he knowingly committed a crime of any kind when he used funds for his son’s tuition.  I think much of this depended on the Episcopal diocese’s presentation of the “facts” to the D.A.  I have no doubt that the finding would not be universal in other jurisdictions.

Prosecuting attornies do ,without malfeasance, select the facts which will allow them to present the case they wish to make against somebody.  If they are not presented with enough opposing evidence to diminish those facts they have to go with what they have.  If the facts could be interpreted in different ways I would hope the view that favored the innocence of a person would prevail.  Unfortunately I don’t trust this to always be the case. 

A plea of No Contest may not mean to Father Armstrong that he is admitting personal guilt with full knowledge of wrongdoing.  It simply may mean he is without the funds to defend this any further so he may indeed be “tacitly admitting to the charges…”

We like to believe laws are cut and dry and it is always obvious that somebody is guilty or not.  This is not true especially when it comes to matters that can be as convoluted as financial crimes.  It also has to be remembered that multiple counts can quickly pile up even when multiple offenses did not occur.  Not sure I explained that well.  I hope one of our attorney friends will chime in.

It is not unusual for a innocent person to be presented with what looks like overwhelming odds against him to just plead No Contest.  The alternative being a very long and costly court battle with the odds of a jury understanding the nuances of the case being slim or none.

I will pray for Father Armstrong and hope he will clarify this sad news.

September 21, 7:40 am | [comment link]


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