January 5, 2012
By Liz Farmer
Washington Examiner Staff Writer
Embattled D.C. Councilman Harry Thomas Jr. resigned Thursday night, and said he would plead guilty to charges of stealing $365,000 from federal grants meant for youth baseball programs at a court hearing Friday.
Thomas, who represents Ward 5, faces up to 13 years in prison if convicted on counts of tax fraud and theft brought against him by federal prosecutors.
"I made some very serious mistakes and exhibited inadequate and flawed judgment," Thomas said in a statement released Thursday night. After admitting he committed "two federal crimes," Thomas said he would enter the guilty plea when he appears before U.S. District Judge John D. Bates on Friday.
"I take full responsibility for my actions. I am truly sorry," he said in the statement.
Hours before Thomas quit, he had been called upon to take that stepby Mayor Vincent Gray and several of his council colleagues.
Early Thursday, federal prosecutors outlined theft and tax fraud charges against him in a four-page charging document.
According to the filing, the embezzlement began in April 2007, just three months after he took office. Part of the money stolen was used to buy a $68,000 SUV, a Chevrolet Tahoe, and a 2008 Victory motorcycle. Prosecutors also charged Thomas with filing a false tax return.
The money came from federal grants aimed at supporting a youth baseball program in Thomas' Ward 5.
The resignation statement marked a swift conclusion to an investigation that began nearly a year ago.
Republican Ward 5 candidate Tim Day, an accountant, first raised questions about spending practices within Thomas' charity to the D.C. attorney general last year.
After a preliminary investigation, the AG referred findings to the federal prosecutors and a criminal probe was started.
One council source said he believes prosecutors threatened to charge more than a dozen allies, including his wife and mother, if Thomas did not agree to a plea.
|Thomas in 2011|
|Jan. 2: Thomas re-sworn in as Ward 5 councilman.|
|June: D.C. attorney general files suit against Thomas for using city funds to buy an Audi SUV and golf trips, asks for $1 million. Thomas steps down as chairman of the economic development committee.|
|July: Thomas reaches a $300,000 settlement with D.C., case referred to federal prosecutors. Three council members call on Thomas to resign.|
Dec: Thomas' home raided by FBI, Internal Revenue Service agents. Reaches a $17,000 settlement on outstanding student loan debt from the early 1980s. Misses second, $50,000 payment back to D.C.
Thomas had not spoken publicly since Internal Revenue Service and FBI agents raided his house one month ago and confiscated more than a dozen bags of evidence, an SUV and a luxury motorcycle.
Friends of Thomas said they had expected the councilman to fight any charges, as he as maintained he would. Some said they were shocked to hear he was prepared to accept a plea deal.
"Nobody ever thought this day would come where he would take a deal and admit some wrongdoing," said Ward 5 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Robert King.
Cheh said she wishes Thomas had resigned before being charged. "The full reality of it just feels like a body blow," she said. "I realize now I had harbored some hope that ... maybe there really was an explanation."
A hearing has been scheduled for 11:15 a.m. Friday.
Examiner Staff Writer Scott McCabe contributed to this article.