Harry Thomas Jr.

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It looks like Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. is headed to federal prison.

Court papers indicating a possible plea deal between Thomas and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have just been filed. No word yet on the details of the plea deal, but according to numerous media accounts and LL’s sources, Thomas is expecting to do about two to three years in the clink.

Should that wind up being true, LL thought it might be worthwhile to find out what’s in store for Thomas. So yesterday, LL turned to Jimmy Tayoun, a former Philadelphia city councilman who went to prison in the early ’90s on corruption charges and wrote a how-to-guide for future prisoners called Going to Prison?

In general, Tayoun says Thomas need not be all that worried about serving time. He says Thomas would likely to go a minimum security joint where he’d be called “the summer help” by other inmates because of his relatively short sentence.

“It’s all mental,” Tayoun says. “It’s nothing big.”

In fact, Tayoun speculated that prison might actually be beneficial for Thomas. Tayoun guessed that the stress of Thomas’ legal problems had caused him to become fat and unhappy, and says the resolution of his case, coupled with the work-out opportunities of prison, would do him good.

“Best thing for him. Two years to get exercise and get healthy. Add 10 years to his life,” says Tayoun, who now publishes a weekly political newspaper in Philly. A bonus: Thomas’ background as a college football player would likely make him popular with other inmates.

But Tayoun cautions against any notion that minimum security prisons are country club-esque, and says there will be a dark side (obviously) to any prison stay.

“The thing that’s going to hit him hardest is that he’s a zero,” Tayoun says.  “He ceases to exists as a name. He’s a number.”

LL also asked Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry, who himself went to prison on a misdemeanor drug charge in the early ’90s, for tips. (Barry’s stay in the clink wasn’t so bad; old time politicos and readers of Dream City will remember the former mayor was transferred by prison authorities midway through his sentence for allegedly receiving a blow job from a female visitor.) Barry declined to discuss the Thomas case yesterday, but did offer his thoughts on his own past legal problems.

“I have been in a number of legal situations—the Vista [Hotel] sting, set up by the FBI, to stalking, this kind of stuff—beat ‘em all,” said Barry.

“No, you didn’t beat them all,” LL replied.

“I did beat them all,” Barry said.

“You went to prison,” said LL.

Barry then conceded that he did, in fact, go to prison, but only because Doris Crenshaw, a former civil rights activists whose testimony about Barry’s drug use led to the sole conviction on 14 counts against Barry during his drug trial, had been granted immunity and “had everything to gain from lying.”

“I didn’t beat them all,” said Barry. “I beat … 95 percent of them.”

Barry also shared his philosophy for what elected officials should do when adversity comes their way.

“You gotta still work to serve your constituency,” Barry said. “When you stop doing that, that’s when your constituency stops believing in you.”

Photo by Darrow Montgomery