Cop pleads not guilty to sex crimes


The Athena policeman facing sex crimes charges pleaded not guilty at an arraignment today.

Mark Benton Ashcraft, 36, an Athena city police officer, faces three counts of third-degree sexual abuse, one count of second-degree sexual abuse, one count of third-degree sodomy and one count of first-degree online sexual corruption of a child. The first three charges are misdemeanors and the others are felonies.

Police arrested Ashcraft on Monday and booked him at the Umatilla County Jail in Pendleton. Two days later jail staff moved Ashcraft from Pendleton to the Malheur County Jail in Vale for his protection.

Ashcraft appeared in a Umatilla County courtroom in Pendleton via a closed-circuit TV from the Malheur County Jail. Kara Davis, his attorney, entered the not guilty pleas on all counts.

Circuit Court Judge Gary Thompson upped Ashcraft's bail to $62,500.

The judge also set a pretrial conference for the case for July 23 and scheduled a trial to begin Aug. 17.

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