APD officer found guilty of theft - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

APD officer found guilty of theft

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July 15, 2004

Albany -- An Albany Police officer is found guilty of stealing the wallet off a man lying injured, near death, on an Albany street.

Patrolman James Thomas stole the wallet off James Burgess after Burgress wrecked his motorcycle on Dawson Road in April. It took a jury only 45 minutes to convict him.

 Judge Loring Gray says "We the jury find James Thomas Guilty of Theft by Taking." Albany Police Officer James Thomas, his family and attorney were stunned by how quickly the guilty verdict was returned.

Thursday morning the 32 year old Thomas took the stand in his own defense. James Thomas said "Sir, I said it since all of this started. I did not steal Mr. Burgess' money."

James Burgess' wallet disappeared after Burgess was seriously injured in a motorcycle crash on Dawson Road April 5th.

Prosecutors say the wallet had at least 2,200 dollars in it. Thomas said " I didn't take his wallet. I am not a thief."

WALB News Ten videotape at the crash show Thomas holding the wallet, and he had the driver's license from it. Thomas testified that in the rush to help Burgess he gave the wallet to a bystander. Thomas said "I gave the wallet to a guy who was wearing a blue shirt."

The most damaging testimony against Thomas came from paramedic Morgan Garcia who testified he saw Thomas counting money from a wallet in his patrol car later in the hospital parking lot.

Dougherty County paramedic Morgan Garcia said "The first thing that caught my eye was there was money in it, and to me appeared to be a large sum. I did notice a one hundred dollar bill on top. The rest of the bills I was unable to see."

Garcia and Prosecutor Greg Edwards recreated for the jury how he looked in the patrol car window and saw Officer Thomas counting the money. At 2:30 the jury announced their verdict.

Prosecutor Greg Edwards said "The still photos showing him directly holding the wallet when he represented he had given the wallet to someone else was pretty conclusive."

Thomas attorney Rick Collum said "I just don't know exactly what was in the jury's mind, but he is innocent. Will you appeal? "Yes we will."

Judge Loring Gray released James Thomas, saying he would pronounce sentence within the week. Thomas could face up to ten years in prison.

 Motorcycle crash victim James Burgess is still hospitalized in Atlanta, but is scheduled to be moved to a Rehab Hospital in Warm Springs Friday.

posted at 6:16 PM by jimw@walb.com