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Convicted felon Harry Thomas Jr.‘s lawyers argued again today in court filings that Thomas shouldn’t be responsible for $92,500 in drug prevention money he directed to be spent on an inaugural ball at the Wilson Building.
Part of Thomas’ criminal behavior, for which he was sentenced earlier this month to spend 38 months in prison, involved steering $110,000—from a drug prevention fund to which D.C. taxpayers had voluntarily contributed—to cover the costs of the 51st State Inaugural Ball, an event held at the Wilson Building that Thomas helped organize. Of that amount, $7,500 went directly into Thomas’ pocket, while the rest went to vendors, court records show.
At Thomas’ sentencing, Judge John Bates punted on deciding whether Thomas should pay back all the diverted money, or just the $7,500 that he got. The U.S. Probation Office and Attorney General Irv Nathan say he should pay the full amount (though they put that figure at $100,000, not $110,000). Thomas says he should just pay the $7,500. (Added to the other piles of money Thomas stole, minus the $70,000 he’s already repaid, the total amount in dispute is either $283,500 or $376,000.)
Bates used the larger figure when calculating what the sentencing guidelines should be, but has allowed Thomas and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which previously indicated that it’s okay with the lower figure, to submit memos arguing their case. Thomas’ basic argument: he agreed to plead guilty to stealing the smaller amount and shouldn’t be on the hook for more than that.
Or in other words, Thomas is basically saying that D.C. taxpayers should just eat the $92,500 he blew on a party. (Adding insult to injury is the fact that $230,000 of that drug prevention money is now unaccounted for, according to the head of the nonprofit that Thomas used to do his embezzling.)
LL was curious to see how the U.S. Attorney’s Office played this one. A couple of weeks ago on The Kojo Nnamdi Show, U.S. Attorney Ron Machen sounded almost defensive describing why he’d backed the smaller amount. Said Machen then:
What we did is we agreed that he should be responsible for the money that he received from his scheme. But there’s an argument. And we always knew this—that probation could take, and they did take it—that he should be held responsible for the entire amount of money that was taken from the scheme, even though it—if it didn’t go to him, if it was used for purposes that weren’t intended, that he should be held accountable. And, obviously, that’s something that the judge is going to wrestle with. We always knew that was an issue. And, obviously, in looking at the case, we look at all the different factors. And that’s why we thought we had given him — we’d given him credit for accepting responsibility. We’d given him credit in our view for his history of service, and so all of that came into play in our decision about how much money to hold him accountable for.
In its court filing today, Machen’s office gave Bates its blessing to force Thomas to pay the higher amount, saying it would be “consistent” with “supporting case law.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery