Thomas could be headed to the relatively easygoing confines of FPC Montgomery. (U.S. Bureau of Prisons)

Looks like former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. might be able to do his hard time in an easier climate.

Thomas’s lead defense attorney, Seth Rosenthal, asked U.S. District Judge John D. Bates at Thursday’s sentencing if he would recommend to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons that Thomas do his time at one of two federal prison camps, in Montgomery, Ala., or Pensacola, Fla.

As I noted Friday, those camps are perhaps the most desirable minimum security facilities in the entire federal system.

Bates did not say Thursday whether he was inclined to grant the request, but in his final judgment made public Tuesday, Bates agreed to recommend that Thomas be located in Montgomery or Pensacola.

The final decision remains in the BOP’s hands, but the recommendation is good news for Thomas, nonetheless.

Federal sentencing expert Alan Ellis put it this way: “Without a recommendation, he doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of getting in there. With a recommendation, he has a better chance.”

Two other notes on the formal judgment: Until now, it has not been clear whether Thomas will also be required to pay the D.C. government back for unpaid income taxes just as he will have to pay back the federal government. But the judgment specifies that Thomas shall “cooperate and arrange with” both the Internal Revenue Service and the D.C. tax office to pay what he owes on his ill-gotten gains, including interest and penalties.

Speaking of interest: Bates waived the requirement that Thomas pay interest on the restitution for the money he stole. The judge found, after reviewing Thomas’s financial records, that he does not have the ability to pay interest.

The amount of that restitution remains to be determined; the outstanding question is whether it should include only the $353,500 that went to Thomas personally, or also the nearly $100,000 more Thomas directed to a 2009 inaugural ball.

Bates has given himself until Aug. 1 to rule on that matter; lawyers for the government and defense have until May 17 to submit arguments.

Thomas awaits an order from federal officials on when to report to prison, which could take some weeks.