Attorney Who Defended Suspects in Cold Case, Death of Vader Boy Quits Practice


Editor's Note: The Chronicle contributed to this report. 

A criminal defense attorney who defended the suspects in the 1985 murders of Wilhelmina "Minnie" Maurin and Edward "Ed" Maurin' and the death of Vader toddler Jasper Henderling-Warner in 2014 has given up his law license after several findings of alleged misconduct.

John R. Crowley submitted his resignation in lieu of discipline effective Sept. 18.

Crowley wrote that rather than defend against the allegations, none of which were based on his work on cases in Lewis County,  he was voluntarily resigning his membership in the Washington State Bar Association.

He was admitted to the state bar in November 1990.

Since it is a permanent resignation, Crowley no longer can practice in any jurisdiction where he was licensed, including both state and federal courts. He also is subject to all restrictions that apply to a disbarred lawyer.

Crowley's filing came just days after he appeared in Franklin County Superior Court for the sentencing of Mary A. Faucett. His client, who'd taken a plea deal for first-degree manslaughter, got nearly 11 years in prison.

Crowley could not be reached Monday.

The phone numbers for both his Seattle and Yakima offices have been temporarily disconnected. While he still has a live website, the attorney biography page has been taken down.

Pam Loginsky, the staff attorney for the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, alerted all county prosecutors of Crowley's move in an email Monday morning.

She advised them to immediately schedule hearings on cases where Crowley is the attorney of record. She also told prosecutors to anticipate seeing personal restraint petitions, motions to withdraw guilty pleas and other appeals in which the defendant argues that Crowley was ineffective on their cases.

Loginsky reminded prosecutors that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has said an attorney's disbarment or suspension alone does not require a finding of effectiveness.

According to a 16-page complaint prepared by the state bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel, Crowley took money from new clients but failed to file necessary paperwork in their cases, ignored repeated calls, text messages and emails from the clients and other attorneys, and lied about his actions.

The cases were out of Grant, Kittitas, Island, Pierce and King counties, and federal court in Idaho.

In one case, a man under investigation for theft of computer equipment hired Crowley and said he wanted to resolve it before any arrest because he already had enlisted in the National Guard.

Crowley did not respond to most follow-up calls and texts from the client and repeatedly delayed the detective with lies, the complaint shows.

He claimed the client was going to surrender but never actually set it up, then told the man to be in court so he could get the arrest warrant quashed, but didn't show up himself. That went on for more than a year before the client fired Crowley.

The complaint also shows that Crowley pocketed some of the money he was paid, instead of putting it into a separate trust account as is required of lawyers.

He received $23,500 to represent one man on felony gun and drug charges, but "did little or no work" other than requesting continuance and asking other attorneys to stand in for him in court.

In 2015 in Kennewick, Crowley successfully defended Tyree Q. Houfmuse against a first-degree assault charge for a Thanksgiving eve dispute outside a Kennewick tavern that left his girlfriend's ex paralyzed. While the jury found he acted in self defense when he fired six shots, they convicted him of felony gun possession.

Earlier this month, the state Court of Appeals in Spokane reversed Houfmuse's conviction and ordered a new trial, saying Crowley "committed professional error" for failing to show jurors that his client was protecting himself out of "necessity."

Benton County prosecutors are waiting on a decision to retry Houfmuse while he deals with a felony murder charge in Umatilla County for a deadly shooting over Memorial Day weekend in Hermiston.

Crowley also represented John C.I. Young, one of two men who killed friend Joshua Snapp on July 4, 2013 in a secluded spot near Richland's Horn Rapids. Young lost his appeal, in which he claimed Crowley was ineffective, and is serving a 31-year sentence.

Crowley also was the appellate attorney for former Kennewick pastor Randall Foos, who unsuccessfully fought his vehicular homicide conviction for killing a 19-year-old bicycle rider in 2003.

And in 2014, he represented Kenneth Baird, one of four Hanford workers acquitted by a federal jury on allegations they aided timecard fraud.

Crowley represented Rick Riffe in a trial over the 1985 cold case murders of the Maurins in Lewis County. He also represented Brenda Wing on allegations she and husband Danny Wing caused the death of a toddler in 2014. Both of his clients were convicted and are currently serving out their prison sentences.