In an exclusive interview just hours before Harry Thomas Jr. was scheduled to board a flight to Alabama to begin serving a 38-month sentence for stealing government funds meant for D.C. youths, the former lawmaker said he spent the last few days of freedom “getting things in order for his family.”
“I roasted marshmallows with my daughters,” he said. “Dealt with the lawn. Those things I’d always dealt with.”
He also hopes to “go by the cemetery” to visit the grave site of his late father, Harry Sr., a former D.C. Council member who died in 1999 and was buried in Fort Lincoln Cemetery.
Thomas’ weekend began Friday evening with prayers and uplifting well-wishes at Michigan Park Christian Church, the very house of worship where Thomas used to attend gatherings to discuss government and civic affairs as Ward 5 council member.
He was surprised to see his uncle, pitcher Leroy “Shotgun” Sanford, who played for the Sandlot Negro Leagues, at the goodbye event.
“He taught me how to play,” said Thomas, who flashed an unsustainable smile before popping a few Hot Tamales candies into his mouth.
Thomas, 51, was sentenced to prison for diverting more than $353,000 in funds that were meant for youth programs.
Some of the funds were spent on youths, but much of it lavished on himself.
Once caught by prosecutors, he agreed to pay restitution, resigned his D.C. Council seat and pleaded guilty in federal court. On May 3, Thomas was sentenced to 38 months in federal prison, and U.S. District Judge John D. Bates later agreed with his request to serve his time at the Federal Prison Camp at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., where he will be known as inmate No. 31866-016.
“Fear of the unknown,” Thomas said, is something he is still is coming to grips with, even though he knows “God helps you conquer all obstacles.”
“I talked about fear on Friday” at the gathering, he said.
“Faith, eternal salvation, atonement and redemption,” is how he broke it down.
“If you don’t acknowledge fear, you’ll be paralyzed,” he added.
Thomas, his wife and son, 17-year-old Harry III, were scheduled to board a noon flight, and without him, they will attend a baseball combine in Atlanta, Thomas said as he again ate some candy, and a notice of regret revealed itself.
While Thomas did not speak about his own political undoing, he did manage to muster up a sense of humor.
As a lawmaker, he supported substantial residential and commercial development of the Fort Lincoln neighborhood and for Costco to open its first D.C. store. Mention of the good he had done quickly flipped his solemn reflections into a small measure of optimism.
“It’ll be open by the time I get home,” he said, “when I’ll be looking for a job.”
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at email@example.com.