- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - An embattled northeastern Montana sheriff resigned less than two months ahead of an election in which he appeared headed for defeat by a subordinate.

Two-term Sheriff Freedom Crawford turned in his resignation late Thursday, Roosevelt County Commissioner Gary MacDonald said. The resignation is effective October 1.

A replacement had not been named Friday.

MacDonald said Crawford offered no explanation for why he was stepping down, and the sheriff did not immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press seeking comment. His resignation was first reported by The Billings Gazette.

In June, he lost a primary vote to opponent Jason Frederick by a huge margin. The two were to face off again in November. Frederick, a former undersheriff, had been demoted by Crawford shortly after announcing his candidacy.

Crawford most recently made headlines when police found him sleeping on a Wolf Point sidewalk and suspected he was intoxicated. He was not cited.

He had a previous alcohol-related arrest in 2011, for throwing a man through a bar window during a drunken fight in Lewistown. He was given a six-month suspended jail term after pleading guilty to three misdemeanors, including assault.

Crawford initially claimed the victim “accidentally fell” through the window. But he later took responsibility and blamed his troubles on drinking too much alcohol.

Crawford returned to work after completing a 28-day treatment program in Billings, where he said he was diagnosed with alcohol dependency and post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from his career in law enforcement.

The Roosevelt Sheriff’s Office has about a dozen deputies. Crawford’s annual salary as sheriff and county coroner is $56,000.

He began his law enforcement career as a police officer with the Fort Peck Tribes for six months and has served in the Army and North Dakota Army National Guard. He worked for the sheriff’s office 14 years and had been sheriff since 2007.

MacDonald said Crawford had not been asked to resign.

Roosevelt County commissioners planned to meet Monday to discuss appointing a replacement until the winner of November’s election takes office. MacDonald mentioned Frederick and Undersheriff John Summers as potential candidates for acting sheriff.

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