Federal prosecutors will ask a U.S. District Court judge to sentence former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. to nearly four years in prison for stealing from the city while he “publicly portrayed himself as a champion of underprivileged children” and eroded the city government’s reputation in the process, according to court papers filed Friday.
The U.S. Attorney for the District said the court should impose 46 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release when the disgraced city lawmaker stands before a judge on Thursday to learn his punishment for siphoning off $350,000 in city funds intended for youth sports programs.
After a high-profile lawsuit and settlement with the D.C. Office Attorney General, Thomas resigned from his Ward 5 seat on the council in January and pleaded guilty to stealing public funds and filing false tax returns.
Prosecutors offered blunt criticism of Thomas in their sentencing memo, arguing he directed funds through the Children & Youth Investment Trust Corp. — a nonprofit intended to assist youth programs — “then treated the grant funds as personal income, to be spent as he pleased.”
The papers reiterate how Thomas directed the trust to grant funds to three different organizations, primarily a golf-affiliation nonprofit in Ward 5 called the Langston 21st Century Foundation, before skimming off money for himself to pay for trips and lavish expenses.
Two principals from Langston 21 have pleaded guilty to concealing a felony for their roles in Thomas’ scheme, despite their honorable personal histories, according to prosecutors.
“These men, who did not know Thomas in any meaningful way before this scheme began, now will have felony convictions and must face sentencing before this court,” their memo said.
The filing said Thomas deserves credit for taking responsibility through his guilty plea, and he did spend some money “on expenses that benefited others.”
In their own filings, attorneys for Thomas said he should receive an 18-month prison term, followed by three years of supervised released that includes six months of home detention, 1,500 hours of community service and restitution of $283,500.
While Thomas accepts “that a term of imprisonment is warranted,” defense attorneys said Thomas is not a threat to society, has a record of service and should be able to serve the “vital role he plays in his young family.”
But prosecutors also argued Thomas knew what he was doing and he did not get “caught up in circumstance beyond his control.” He stole funds intended for city youth, they added, even as he positioned himself as champion of young athletes and witnessed an outbreak of violent crimes in the Trinidad neighborhood of his ward — the type of behavior that enrichment programs are designed to prevent.
“Thomas,” the memo said, “was both the mastermind and the chief financial beneficiary of his crimes.”
Defense attorneys provided 93 letters to the court in support of Thomas, including one from the former legislator himself. In it, Thomas speaks of “owning up” to his actions.
“I will need to spend a lot of time making amends and seeking to earn the forgiveness I hope one day to receive,” he wrote to Judge John D. Bates. “Words, I know, will not be sufficient. Only actions will be.”
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Tom Howell Jr. covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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