- Associated Press - Friday, June 19, 2015

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) - A 2nd District Judge has denied reducing bond for a man accused of strangling his ex-wife.

The Lewiston Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1GasGcg ) Judge Gregory FitzMaurice left bond at $1 million Wednesday for Joseph Thomas Jr.

Defense attorney Mark Monson said Thomas, a former Nez Perce County sheriff’s deputy, wouldn’t cause any problems if he were to make bond and be released. But FitzMaurice cited the seriousness of the offense as a reason to not reduce bond.

Thomas was convicted in 2011 of first-degree murder in the death of Beth Irby-Thomas and sentenced to 25 years. Irby-Thomas was found dead with a belt around her neck on May 1, 2011.

But the Idaho Supreme Court vacated the conviction in January after ruling the lower court erred by excluding evidence in Thomas’ trial that could have corroborated his claim that Beth Irby-Thomas liked to engage in erotic asphyxiation. The justices cited excluded evidence from friends who said Beth Irby-Thomas liked to be choked into unconsciousness and might have inadvertently strangled herself.

Monson, in asking for a lower bond, said Thomas has no prior criminal history, will be able to find employment if he can post bond, and has family in the area who would make sure he attends hearings.

Monson also said that when Thomas was in prison he learned about a plan by two other inmates to attack a corrections officer and informed prison officials at his own peril.

“I don’t think you’ll have any trouble if he’s released, if he’s able to make bond,” Monson said.

Nez Perce County Deputy Prosecutor Justin Coleman argued against reducing bond. He said Thomas was in the process of loading his children into his vehicle to flee when he was arrested, and faces a likelihood of again being convicted.

FitzMaurice cited Thomas’ lack of strong ties to Lewiston as another reason not to reduce bond.

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Information from: Lewiston Tribune, http://www.lmtribune.com

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