WASHINGTON – D.C. Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. has been sentenced to 38 months in prison for crimes his mother says brought “shame” to his family and “society as a whole.”
Federal Judge John Bates sentenced Thomas to 38 months for the first count and 36 months for the second, to be served concurrently.
Prosecutors had asked for a term of nearly four years. Thomas’ lawyer requested an 18-month term.
Thomas is the first elected D.C. official to be convicted of a felony.
Bates delayed a ruling on restitution for the funds Thomas embezzled. It is unclear whether the total amount was $353,500, or $446,000 as the prosecution claims.
“Harry Thomas Jr. was driven by greed to steal from the very children he claimed to champion,” said U.S. Attorney for D.C. Ronald C. Machen Jr., according to a Department of Justice release.
“This prison sentence is just punishment for his flagrant abuse of the trust placed in him by the people of the District of Columbia,” says Machen. “He fostered a public persona as an advocate for underprivileged kids at the same time he was funneling tax dollars set aside for youth programs to his own bank accounts.”
Thomas’ mother, former D.C. public school Principal Romaine Thomas, testified to the judge on behalf of her son before the sentencing.
“My son has suffered severely in these past few months,” she said. “We’ve discussed as a mother and son the shame he has brought to his family and society as a whole.”
“He’s had a powerful moment with God,” she said.
Romaine Thomas also evoked a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “There is some good in the worst of us and some bad in the best of us.”
Harry Thomas pleaded guilty in January to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars, mostly from money earmarked for youth baseball programs. He used the money to buy himself designer shoes, a luxury SUV and lavish golf trips. Thomas had been a longtime advocate for youth sports.
His sentencing comes amid ongoing federal investigations into the use of funds in the political campaigns of D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and Council Chairman Kwame Brown.
The D.C. attorney general called Thursday’s sentencing “a just resolution of this sad matter.”
“The sentence imposed on former Councilmember Thomas sends a strong message to those who would abuse the power of their District government positions to enrich themselves at the expense of the public: There will be serious consequences for such unlawful actions,” Irv Nathan said in a written statement.
D.C. will use “all available avenues” to collect the money Thomas embezzled, says Nathan.
“We are hopeful that the Court will also order restitution of all the District funds diverted by Mr. Thomas,” he says.
Thomas’ Ward Five Council seat has been vacant since his January resignation and guilty plea. The special election to fill his seat will cost taxpayers more than $300,000.
WTOP’s Mark Segraves is in the courtroom. Check out his live tweets: