Byers' Beat is a weekly column written by the I-Team's Christine Byers, who has covered public safety in St. Louis for 15 years. It is intended to offer context and analysis of the week's biggest crime stories and public safety issues.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. — Former Jefferson County Municipal Prosecutor James Isaac “Ike” Crabtree had a message for a woman who had multiple ordinance violations pending before him:
“I can be a very valuable friend.”
Letters inside his federal court case file show he was right.
A Habitat for Humanity board member, attorneys, an assistant professor from Washington University, a Fulbright Scholar and religious and legal leaders across the country wrote to a federal judge on Crabtree’s behalf, urging the judge to keep him out of prison.
Crabtree pleaded guilty in August to lying to the FBI about dismissing the woman’s ordinance violations after engaging in a sex act with her, as well as violating her constitutional right to bodily integrity.
The civil rights charge carries a penalty of up to a year in prison, a $100,000 fine, or both, and the charge of lying to the FBI carries a maximum penalty of five years and a $250,000 fine.
Crabtree himself penned a seven-page letter to the judge, asking that he be given a punishment that would allow him to keep caring for his five children.
He titled the Nov. 6 letter to U.S. District Judge Stephen Clark: “Feast of the Icon of the Mother of God, ‘Joy of All Who Sorrow.’”
In it, he tells the judge he suffers from trauma that stems from the moment he and his now wife gave up their first child for adoption following a teen pregnancy.
“My own refusal to get treatment and to grow beyond my past experiences led directly to the set of decisions for which I am now being sentenced,” he wrote.
In his letter, he wrote his wife has had multiple subsequent pregnancies, some of which have included nearly fatal complications.
He blames his own inability to control his sexual desires for her suffering.
“I also realize now that I was nursing a resentment toward Providence, which had seemingly presented to me the two unacceptable options of a celibate marriage or the mortal sin of artificial contraception,” he wrote.
In March 2021, when he met the victim in his case, he said his wife had to be hospitalized for another miscarriage.
“My anxiety, my feelings of guilt and shame, and my general frustrations with life, were out of control when I first met the gaze of an attractive woman who seemed to need my help,” he wrote.
RELATED: Caught on camera: Jefferson County municipal prosecutor dismisses woman's cases after sex act
He then talked about how he had been lying to himself before he lied to the FBI about their encounter.
Then, he takes a turn in his letter, saying he “didn’t offer any quid pro quo deals,” during their meeting.
“I justified my advances to her in my mind with arbitrary and self-serving distinctions,” he wrote. “I deluded myself by thinking that if she reciprocated my advances, it wasn’t wrong. I deluded myself by thinking that since I didn’t offer any quid pro quo deals, it wasn’t an unethical abuse of my position and authority.”
The victim in the case felt differently.
Sources familiar with this case say Crabtree locked the door to his office, and the victim didn’t think she had a choice.
She also didn’t want to go to jail and had children of her own who needed her then – another point Crabtree seized on during the meeting with the victim, telling her he knew she had children and he was “just trying to help her.”
In her victim impact statement to the court, the victim talked about how Crabtree showed up at her place of employment unannounced and unexpectedly after he “sexually assaulted” her, and she felt “terrified.”
To her, Crabtree wrote: “To (victim) I owe the deepest apology of my entire life. I took advantage of her vulnerability and my position of authority. I alone am responsible for the wrongness of my actions. I wish her all of God’s blessings; most especially recovery, healing, wholeness and peace.”
The victim told the judge she was concerned with the other connections Crabtree has and how they could affect other legal matters in her life.
Crabtree leaned on more than a dozen of those connections to send letters to the federal judge presiding over his case.
One of them blamed the victim for what happened, calling her a “cunning” woman, and the media for its “salacious” coverage of the case.
All said Crabtree’s public humiliation and loss of employment were punishment enough for what he did.
Here are some excerpts from them:
Dave Crump, past chairman of the Board for Jefferson County Habitat for Humanity, currently Director of Daily Operations and ReStore manager.
“It was with welcome arms we included him on our board of directors and he was a dedicated and faithful servant to our group.”
After Crabtree’s indictment, he resigned and has been unemployed ever since.
“His wife had to start working at a coffee shop to help pay the bills,” Crump wrote. “He became a caregiver for his kids and was doing his best to keep the household going.”
Michael Lowry of the Lowry Law Firm
“Isaac is a generous, devoted and loving father. He is a brilliant young man. Despite him being in front of you for sentencing on these charges, I maintain that Isaac is a man of the highest moral character who fell from grace.”
Nicole Steineger, a close friend of the Crabtrees
“My view, while most likely unpopular in the era of the Me Too movement, is that cunning women often have their way with men in powerful positions.”
“It could be the case that this woman was incentivized to write a certain narrative so as to appear as a victim.”
“I believe Isaac has been punished enough. He has been stripped of his job, one that he worked extremely hard for. He has been publicly humiliated by the salacious media coverage of which will remain on the internet for who knows how long.”
“Many in our society are guilty of the same type of indiscretions, but never have to face such public scorn. That alone is punishment enough.”
Mark Emmett Atkins, close friend
“His love for his family is strong.”
“The nature of his life cannot and should not be defined by a moment of shame.”
“I believe that Isaac’s life can best be defined by his relationships with others, and the book of his good deeds.”
Pastor Archpriest Matthew Williams of St. Tikhon Russian Orthodox Church in Tennessee
“I have been impressed by Isaac’s devotion to his family.”
“I humbly suggest that, in sentencing, Isaac’s love for and responsibilities towards his family be weighed in contrast to the seemingly isolated error in judgement that precipitated his investigation and conviction.”
Mikhail Milchenko, Assistant Professor of Radiology at Washington University specializing in mathematical methods in medical research, and church choir member
“I know Isaac to be a zealous religious person, eager to make himself better through the religious practice.”
“He has been kind and compassionate to others and myself, helping the way he could in difficult situations.”
Giorgi Sakhelashvili, physicist from the country of Georgia
Sakhelashvili has known the Crabtrees since 2011 when he came to St. Louis as Fulbright Research Scholar.
“He is a devoted Christian, a head of a pious family with high moral standards, highly educated, a long-term member of the parish council, dedicated choir singer.”
“I would characterize Isaac as a person with high moral standards, kindness, compassion, supportiveness, and readiness for prompt help. In this picture, the unpleasant episode of his life looks completely fallen out and illogical, some momentary mistake without prerequisites and continuation, one blink of an eye which led to an accident.”
Yelena Loban, close friend of the Crabtrees
“I’m aware of the severe charges that are laid upon Isaac for his disastrous actions and I understand how grievous his misconduct was. I also know that he is full of self-reproach and sorry over the suffering he has brought to everyone involved.”
Reverend Sergei Alekseev, rector of Saint Basil the Great Orthodox Church in Ballwin
“When I heard there were allegations against him, it was hard to believe, since I have always known him, as have others, as a solid family man.”
“Isaac stopped his sinful actions and regrets them most profoundly.”
“No one turned away from Isaac, knowing how profoundly he repents and seeing how hard he works to undo the harm he has caused to his family.”
Meghan Harville, former Animal Control Officer for Jefferson County who worked with Crabtree on a case
He handled an error on an animal control case “apologetically and with a great deal of humility.”
“Isaac was a kind man with struggles like everyone else.”
“He started therapy months before the FBI investigation because he wanted to grow into a better human being…Even when a past mistake would pop into his life threatening his career or marriage, he steadies his course toward growth.”
“With his flaws, he is a kind and compassionate human being. His soul would now allow him to hold anything over another human for self-gain.”
“I hope my words have given you some insight to who Isaac is and that you can judge his actions for the mistake of a man and not a vicious predator.”
Bryan Alan Kopel, godson and a novice monk
“(Isaac is) a joyful, helpful, patient, and kindhearted father.”
“I pray and beg your fairness in judging him in his entirety and not merely on one sin.”
“Isaac is certainly committed to righting the wrongs of his past without the need for incarceration or harsh penalties. He is not a grave threat to society. He is one of the most conscientious men I have ever had the honor to befriend.”
“The lightest sentence possible would be the best outcome for all of us going forward.”
Stanley Schnaare, attorney with The Schnaare Law Firm in Hillsboro
“Honest, forthright, committed to service to others, and a person of general good report.”
“I know him to be a man of principles and was personally sad for him when the news of his misjudgment was made public.”
“I would hire him if the opportunity arose, even with this blemish on his career, because I sincerely believe that this moment of passion is not the true color of his life no measure of his qualities.
Joshua David Wiseman, member of West Virginia Bar
“I believe that a sentence that allows Zac to maintain full and uninterrupted bodily liberty fairly and justly balances the interests of everyone involved – the victim, the government, the bar, society, Zac, his wife and their five children.”
“Zac has already faced severe consequences for his sin and crime: his fruit has been stripped; his leaves have withered and his bark has been peeled.”
“The victim would not be wronged by a sentence that allowed Zac to maintain his liberty. A man used his position and power to wrong her, and that man has now been forever stripped of said position and power to wrong her and that man has now been forever stripped of said position and power and all of the aforesaid negative consequences have been brought to bear on him. Moreover, she has also had the opportunity to see the government mobilize to protect her interests and bring her justice; and this has hopefully restored at least some of her confidence in the integrity of our government and judicial system. And for her benefit and peace of mind – I think it’s crystal clear that Zac would never, under any circumstances, try to contact her – could the court not fashion some permanent injunction or no-contact order mandating that Zac never attempt to contact her?”
Crabtree's friends are proving valuable to him. Crabtree's sentencing was scheduled for Dec. 7.