WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Former District of Columbia councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. was sentenced Thursday to three years and two months in prison for stealing more than $350,000 in government funds.
U.S. District Judge John Bates said Thomas committed a “betrayal of trust” when he embezzled funds earmarked for youth sports and arts programs. Thomas, who showed no visible emotion as he was sentenced, apologized for his actions in a letter submitted to the court and again at his sentencing hearing.
“I took this money because it was a sense of entitlement … I lost touch with the values I now cling to more than ever,” he told the judge Thursday.
The sentence was less than the 46-month term sought by prosecutors, but twice as long as the sentence he had requested. Thomas will be allowed to report on his own to prison, and the judge said he would recommend a minimum-security facility.
In seeking a sentence at the high end of the guideline range, prosecutors cited the luxuries that Thomas’ embezzlement afforded him: a $70,000 Audi sport-utility vehicle, a $24,000 Victory motorcycle and three pairs of shoes that cost $1,374, among other items. They said it was all the worse that Thomas traded on his involvement in youth sports to cheat the very children he was supposed to be helping for his personal gain.
“(A)s Thomas secretly stole money earmarked for youth-enrichment programs, he publicly portrayed himself as a champion of underprivileged children,” prosecutors wrote in seeking a sentence of nearly four years, at the high end of the sentencing guideline range. “His corrupt conduct tarnished the reputation of the Council of the District of Columbia.”
Thomas has so far paid back $70,000 of the $353,000 that he stole, according to court papers.
Thomas is the son of a three-term councilmember, Harry L. Thomas Sr., who also represented the city’s Ward 5, a majority-black, mixed income section of the city. He was elected in 2006, and prosecutors say his theft began within months.
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.
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