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Illicit CP - July 2008

Corpun file 20367


Press-Register, Mobile, Alabama, 12 July 2008

Sentence by ex-judge challenged

Drug offender says his refusal to be paddled resulted in unfair sentence from Herman Thomas

By Gary McElroy
Staff Reporter

Convicted drug offender Cedric Scott has asked the Mobile County Circuit Court to review his prison sentence, arguing that former Judge Herman Thomas handed down an unfairly stiff punishment after Scott refused to let Thomas paddle him.

Scott's attorney, Donnie Friedlander, filed a two-page motion July 9 asking for a review of the sentence Thomas issued in early 2007.

In the motion, Friedlander argues that Thomas was too close to Scott and should have recused himself.

"Judge Herman Thomas had personal contact with (the) defendant and his family," Friedlander wrote, "even visiting the defendant's home place."

Friedlander wrote that Thomas "also wanted to spank the defendant, but defendant refused to allow it."

The motion is the first time since allegations against Thomas arose that a defendant or inmate has asked the court to review a sentence given by Thomas, according to a top courthouse official. Thomas resigned in October amid allegations that he helped friends, including his cousin and former school board member David Thomas; lifted cases off other judges' dockets; and paddled jail inmates in a room near his chambers at Mobile Government Plaza.

At the time of his resignation, Herman Thomas faced a trial before the Court of the Judiciary on 30 ethical complaints brought against him by the Judicial Inquiry Commission. The case was dropped when Thomas stepped down.

Scott's motion is before Circuit Judge Michael Youngpeter, who took Thomas' spot on the bench.

In the motion, and outside court on Thursday, Friedlander argued that Thomas erred when he gave Scott, 31, a consecutive rather than concurrent sentence in a drug case. Scott was ordered to serve two years, Friedlander said, because Thomas "wanted to punish him" for rebuffing a paddling.

Friedlander acknowledged his client has a string of arrests and convictions, nearly all of them involving drug possession and abuse.

Thomas has declined comment in the past, and an attempt to reach him Friday was unsuccessful.

Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr. indicated early on that his office was investigating complaints and allegations against Thomas, but the district attorney has since grown reticent on the subject and declined comment.

In May, the Press-Register reported that sources said Thomas was the focus of a federal investigation.

Officials from the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI in Mobile have declined to confirm or deny any investigation.

Presiding Circuit Judge Charles Graddick said Friday he believed Friedlander's motion was the first asking for redress.

"No one to my knowledge has filed any kind of motion asking that a sentence be re-looked at because of the spanking (allegations) or the misconduct of Herman Thomas," Graddick said. "This is the first I am aware of, and I would have heard."

In his motion, Friedlander also seeks to have the plea and sentence set aside because Scott "did not knowingly and intelligently understand what his sentence was going to be."

The attorney alleged that Thomas advised Scott "not to retain" a lawyer, that he would appoint him one. Friedlander said Thomas told Scott: "A paid lawyer would do you no good."

At one point, Thomas "also had the defendant removed from the Mobile County (Metro) Jail personally," according to the motion, which did not elaborate.

"Our main ethical consideration is a judge having personal contact with a defendant and his family without the DA being present or the man's lawyer," Friedlander said. "It's highly unethical to me. The Bar Association will tell you that."

He said if Youngpeter were to grant his motion to set aside the sentence, Scott could be out of jail in a matter of days.

2008 Press-Register All Rights Reserved.

blob Follow-up: 31 March 2009 - State Bar Association pulls Thomas' law license

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