EASTON — A former Easton High School art teacher was given three years of probation on a reckless endangerment charge that stemmed from accusations that he held his wife hostage at gunpoint inside their home in January 2020.
In a plea agreement, Jonathan Crist, 32, who prior to being charged with a crime had taught at Easton High since 2011, pleaded guilty in Dorchester Circuit Court to reckless endangerment.
Crist’s guilty plea was in exchange for the prosecution’s dismissing four other charges against him in the case, which included first- and second-degree assault, use of a firearm in a violent crime and false imprisonment.
Judge Brett Wilson during a plea hearing last Tuesday, Oct. 13, struck the guilty verdict for reckless endangerment in Crist’s case and ordered Crist to serve three years of probation before judgement — meaning if Crist does not violate the terms of his probation the case will go away.
Dorchester State’s Attorney William Jones said the judge’s ruling in the case was based on there having been differing versions of the alleged events, as well as the judge’s having received several letters of support for Crist from community members. Crist’s supporters included EHS Principal Kirk Howie, Crist’s former students and their parents, and a few of his former teacher colleagues.
In a letter to the judge from Renee Warfield, who taught alongside Crist, Warfield called the accusations levied against Crist “surprising and uncharacteristic.” This sentiment was shared by the school’s principal.
Howie wrote to the judge that Crist had been a “reliable and trusted” teacher at the school, and said Crist is a “supporter of the students and community.”
Talbot County Public Schools declined to comment on the development Thursday, and declined to say whether Crist would return to the school as a teacher. The district also would not confirm whether it can employ individuals who are on probation.
Dorchester’s state’s attorney said in an interview that Crist pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment in the case because he was the one who “introduced the gun” during an argument with his wife in which she accused him of pointing a gun at himself and her. The couple’s four children, between ages six and 12, were asleep in their home in Vienna during the incident in the early morning on Jan. 9, police said.
Crist’s wife told police that during the argument Crist brandished a gun and threatened, “It’s what you deserve and I should just shoot you now,” according to charging documents. Police said Crist’s wife reported that after several hours inside the home she convinced Crist to give her the gun.
She then left the house with the gun and made contact with a police officer, Cpl. Larimer of the Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office, outside the Vienna Volunteer Fire Company, police said. Larimer stated in charging documents that he located the gun, a loaded 20-gauge shotgun, near the Vienna boat ramp where Crist’s wife said she placed it.
Crist was arrested in connection with his wife’s allegations against him and was ordered held without bond the next day on Jan. 10 at the Dorchester County Detention Center. Crist was later granted GPS-monitored home confinement in March while he awaited his trial.
The conditions of Crist’s 3-year probation before judgement, according to court records, prohibit him from contacting his wife, whom he is in the process of divorcing, and require him to undergo mental health treatment and get the court’s permission before owning a weapon.
In divorce papers for the couple filed by Crist’s wife, she requested sole legal custody of their four children. A protective order against Crist prohibits him from going near his wife through mid-January 2021.
Crist declined The Star Democrat‘s request for comment Friday. Stephanie Shipley, an attorney for Crist, did not return a request for comment.