No prison for police officer convicted of theft - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

No prison for police officer convicted of theft

August 2, 2004

Albany -- No prison time for the Albany Police Officer, convicted of stealing the wallet of a motorcycle crash victim. James Thomas was sentenced to one year in a diversion center.

 His lawyer has already filed for a new trial. As he was about to be sentenced, Former Albany Police Officer James Thomas told Judge Loring Gray that he is innocent. Thomas said "In my heart I know I am not a thief. I would not take money from a man that was hurt."

Judge Gray said he gave more thought to this sentence than any he has ever had in 18 years on the bench. Thomas was one of the officers who worked an April crash on Dawson Road, where James Burgess was seriously injured when his motorcycle was hit by a car. Thomas was charged with stealing Burgess' wallet and over 22-hundred dollars. A jury took only 45 minutes to convict him.

The Judge sentenced Thomas as a first offender to five years probation, the first 12 months in a diversion center in Thomasville or Columbus. He also is to pay a two thousand dollar fine, and repay the Burgess family the 22-hundred dollars.

 Chief Assistant District Attorney Greg Edwards said "This whole episode has not been good for law enforcement. An example had to be made."

 Thomas' lawyer said they are happy with the sentence, but he has already filed for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. Rick Collum said "Now that he has been sentenced to such a lenient sentence, I want to make sure he wants to continue with a new trial or an appeal."

 After his sentence, James Thomas was allowed to go free with his family, until the state can arrange for his placement in a diversion center.

 Surprisingly, Officer Thomas was never charged with violating his oath of office. The D.A. didn't charge him with that because he said he wanted to keep the case as simple as possible.

posted at 6:18 PM by jimw@walb.com

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