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Lawyer urges no jail time for Thomas

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: The Day

Published November 16. 2013 4:00AM
Prosecutor argues that 27- to 33-month sentence 'appropriate'

Michael Thomas' attorney argued this week that the former Mashantucket Pequot tribal chairman should not have to serve time in a federal prison for misusing a tribe-issued credit card to pay for more than $100,000 in personal expenses over a two-year period.

A sentence involving "probation, with a condition of home confinement and community service" would suffice, Thomas' public defender wrote in a memorandum filed in U.S. District Court in New Haven.

Thomas, 45, whom a jury convicted in July of three counts of stealing from the tribe, is to be sentenced Tuesday by Judge Janet Bond Arterton.

In a separate memorandum, federal prosecutors wrote that a prison sentence that falls within a range of 27 to 33 months "is appropriate and necessary" in Thomas' case.

Paul Thomas, the public defender, who is not related to Michael Thomas, urged Arterton to find otherwise.

"A sentence in that range, or any sentence of imprisonment, would be more than necessary to accomplish the fundamental objectives of sentencing and a non-custodial sentence would suffice to achieve those goals," Paul Thomas wrote.

Trial evidence showed that the overwhelming majority of the personal expenses Michael Thomas charged were related to medical transportation he arranged for his ailing mother.

Several people, including Michael Thomas, submitted letters to the court.

"The first thought that I must share with you relates to my acceptance of complete personal responsibility for the wrong that I have done," Thomas wrote to the judge. "Although I did not know that these actions were criminal in nature at the time, I did make personal charges on my (tribal) Amex card with full knowledge that a tribal policy existed prohibiting such use."

He asked Arterton to consider his history of repaying the tribe prior to 2007 and his "true intentions" to pay back the tribe for personal charges he made thereafter.

"The burden that my failures have already brought to bear upon my life and the life of my family are very significant," Thomas wrote. "... The loss of a 'good guy' reputation that I worked hard to earn over two decades of service to my tribe is one of those burdens. The lasting negative impact of my conviction upon the leadership legacy of my mother and my grandmother is an even greater burden than the first. An inability to return to public service of any kind is also a burden to bear, and the impact of this case upon my 15-year-old twin sons, my 9-year-old daughter and my 5-year-old son is an even greater one."

Rodney Butler, who succeeded Thomas as tribal chairman, wrote a letter on behalf of the tribal council. Butler said Thomas has devoted years of service to the tribe and its members and acknowledged that Thomas violated tribal policies regarding the use of tribe-issued credit cards.

"… We humbly submit that Mr. Thomas should receive some consideration from the court based on the overall facts and circumstances related to this matter," Butler wrote.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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