Crabtree, 53, was sentenced in 115th District Court by visiting Judge William Porter on a plea bargain. The ex-commissioner, who was still in office when the incident occurred, also was fined $1,000, ordered to perform 240 hours of community service, and ordered to take a certified anger management course, among other conditions of probation.
Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd indicated during the sentencing that the game warden, Shane Bailey, had approved the sentence after the defense approached Byrd about a plea bargain. About 20 or more Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens, including Bailey, attended the proceeding.
As part of the plea bargain, Crabtree read aloud a brief apology to Bailey and two other officers involved in the standoff, Big Sandy Police Officer Gary Pettis and Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Brasher. The former commissioner said “I deeply regret my conduct and actions of last October (6th),” and said he wished he had acted differently.
Byrd told reporters afterward he would not have recommend probation if Bailey and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials had not agreed to it. He also said related pending charges against Crabtree’s son, Todd Allen Crabtree, are expected to be resolved soon by a plea.
Byrd told reporters the elder Crabtree wrongly believed he was making a “citizen’s arrest” when he pointed a rifle at Bailey, who the Crabtrees confronted and reportedly accused of trepassing on the elder Crabtree’s property on Dial Road near Big Sandy.
The district attorney also said he believed a jury would have given a sentence “within the zone” of the one assessed Friday, and there “wasn’t an absolute guarantee that he would go to prison.”
The offense is punishable by 2-10 years imprisonment and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Because of his plea to the felony charge, Crabtree can no longer vote, hold elective office, nor ever possess a firearm, Byrd said. Crabtree lost his bid for reelection to a third term several months before last October’s incident and left office at year’s end.
The former commissioner also entered a “plea-in-bar”—an admission of guilt—to a charge of aggravated assault on a peace officer in connection with the incident (he was accused not of actually striking Bailey, but of threatening him by pointing the gun at him). Under the plea bargain, that plea was taken into consideration in the sentencing and another felony charge of “unlawful restraint” was dismissed.
Byrd said he did not pursue the aggravated assault charge because the only sentences for that were prison or what is known as deferred adjudication probation, in which a defendant has no final conviction on his record if he successfully completes probation. The district attorney said he “wanted a final conviction.”
Crabtree, wearing a white polo shirt and tan pants, was grinning after entering the courtroom Friday. Flanked by his Longview attorneys, Clifton “Scrappy” Holmes and David Moore, he stood before Porter and answered the judge’s questions in a firm, clear voice.
As the proceeding concluded, Porter told Crabtree, “I don’t want to see you back, and you don’t want to be back. Do what you’re supposed to do, and good luck with it.”
Bailey declined comment to The Mirror afterward. Byrd told reporters he credited the Game Warden’s military Special Forces training for the standoff ending peacefully.
Before Friday’s hearing began, Brad Chappell, captain with Internal Affairs for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, told the newspaper the Game Wardens were in attendance because “We all are concerned about the outcome, and we definitely want to show our support for Shane and any other officer that is involved in a situation like this.”
In a press release, Byrd gave these details of the incident last Oct. 6:
About 1:30 p.m., Bailey unloaded a 4-wheeler pulled by his marked state truck and rode it under a pipe rail fence onto the property at the end of Dial Road. At the time, neither of the Crabtrees was present.
Bailey “was patrolling this area to inspect for possible hunters and to look for possible deer blinds where hunters might come in the future. After traveling into the property for approximately 30 minutes, he found no hunters and turned around to head back towards his truck.”
Text messages and phone records showed that the Crabtrees and Lloyd’s brother, Charlie Crabtree, were going to the property that afternoon and had brought groceries with them for their camper and camp located on the land. Todd drove his truck with a trailer of equipment attached and Lloyd was a passenger.
Todd parked next to Bailey’s truck while the Game Warden was still deep in the woods. Without Charlie present, Lloyd and Todd Crabtree grabbed .22 rifles, went to search for the Game Warden, and “split up inside the woods.”
Todd Crabtree encountered Bailey, who was wearing a camouflage jacket over his uniform, driving the 4-wheeler out of the woods and toward the roadway. Bailey did not know who Todd was, but drove toward him, “expecting he was the land owner.”
The younger Crabtree, who did not point his gun at the officer nor threaten to, told Bailey he was committing felony trespassing and called 911 to request the Game Warden be arrested. Bailey got off the 4-wheeler; took off the jacket, clearly revealing his uniform; and himself called 911 to have the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office identify him to Todd. The younger Crabtree then phoned his father to tell him where he and Bailey were.
“At this point, Lloyd Crabtree comes up from behind the game warden and commands him to take off his gun. When Game Warden Bailey turns, he sees Lloyd Crabtree with his .22 rifle pointed at him,” Byrd wrote.
Bailey laid his .40 caliber Glock pistol on the 4-wheeler, and Todd Crabtree dropped its clip before putting the gun back on the 4-wheeler. Lloyd Crabtree, no longer pointing his rifle at Bailey, called 911 to ask that the officer be arrested for trespassing and poaching. Then Crabtree called Sheriff Anthony Betterton, who during a 32-minute conversation refused to arrest Bailey, told Crabtree to give the officer his gun back, and advised the then-commissioner he could file a complaint with the District Attorney.
Bailey also called 911 for help. When Lloyd Crabtree “heard law enforcement approaching through the woods, he hung up with the Sheriff and told his son they should go.”
Lloyd began walking in the lead on the trail with his son following. Bailey walked to his 4-wheeler, put the clip back in his gun, holstered it, and started driving out of the woods, following the Crabtrees. Then Deputy Brasher and Officer Pettis encountered Lloyd on the trail from a distance of about 100 yards.
“They commanded Lloyd to drop his weapon and at that time he looked up after hearing this command and told those two officers to drop their weapons. After realizing again this was law enforcement. . . he then laid down on the ground with hands behind his back” before the officers handcuffed him.
Todd, seeing his father lay down, did the same. Bailey drove up to Todd and handcuffed him before the Crabtrees were taken to county jail.
When Texas Rangers tried to interview Lloyd Crabtree in jail, he questioned why he was there “because he was the landowner who called 911 with a game warden trespassing on his property wearing camouflage without a warrant and he wanted charges brought against the game warden.
“We believe, based on the evidence, this defendant was attempting to affect a citizen’s arrest of the game warden. This thinking was clearly flawed and his actions clearly illegal,” Byrd wrote.
Rangers led the investigation “along with Internal Affairs of the Game Wardens assisting,” said Byrd, who said “I spent months reviewing every angle of this case and every piece of evidence.” After the defense approached him about a plea, he said, he “went to Shane Bailey, investigators, and the administration and leadership of the Game Wardens top to bottom.”
The press release concluded, “In the end, the conviction was important against Lloyd Crabtree so that he cannot possess a firearm. Based on our discussions, the Game Wardens were pleased that, while for a short period of time he had one of their own without his gun, in the end, this sentence will take his guns for life.”
Addressing rumors about what was on the property, Byrd told reporters that flyovers of the land showed “nothing to suggest” marijuana fields, illegal narcotics, or bodies.