A U.S. District Court judge ruled Thursday that former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. must pay $353,500 in restitution after he stole from the city government, about $90,000 less than the total amount he is accused of taking.
The ruling by Judge John D. Bates caps Thomas’s sentencing, clearing the way for him to report to federal prison this summer to begin serving his 38-month sentence.
When Bates handed down Thomas’s sentence this month, he reserved judgment on how much restitution he would order Thomas to pay D.C. taxpayers.
Under the terms of Thomas’s plea agreement, the former two-term Ward 5 council member agreed to pay $353,500, the amount of money he admitted stealing from taxpayers for his own benefit.
But Bates noted during sentencing that Thomas also improperly diverted about $92,500 in city funds to a 2009 inaugural ball that he helped organize.
Although he seemed prepared to make Thomas pay back that money as well, Bates took two weeks to consider arguments from Thomas’s lawyers and from prosecutors.
Not surprisingly, Thomas’s lawyers fought for the lower figure, arguing in a 14-page briefing that restitution is “limited to the loss caused by the specific conduct that is the basis of the offense of conviction.”
U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen argued for the higher amount, noting that the court had concluded that the final cost of Thomas’s crimes was $446,500.
In his ruling, Bates noted that legal precedent allows that, “under certain circumstances, restitution can extend beyond the offense of the conviction if a scheme, conspiracy or pattern of criminal activity is an element of the offense or if a plea agreement allows for a greater amount.”
But Bates concluded that Thomas’s case did not meet the definition of “scheme, conspiracy or a pattern of criminal activity.”
“Nor does the plea agreement reflect that the parties intended to expand the scope of the restitution beyond the offense of which Thomas was convicted, namely the theft of $353,500,” the ruling states.
Thomas requested that he serve his sentence at a federal camp in Montgomery, Ala., or Pensacola, Fla. Bates agreed to the request, but it’s up to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to make the final decision about where Thomas will serve his time and when he should report.