Updated 3:40 p.m.
Former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. faces 37 to 46 months in federal prison when he is sentenced in May on felony theft and tax charges, a federal trial judge in Washington said today.
Thomas, 52, a Council member since 2006, pleaded guilty today to two felony charges that he stole more than $350,000 in public money and failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars on income tax returns between 2007 and 2009.
"Guilty as charged, your honor," Thomas told U.S. District Judge John Bates this morning in a crowded courtroom. Thomas yesterday resigned from the Council, issuing an apology to constituents, friends and family that acknowledged personal shortcomings.
Thomas spent the morning responding to routine questions from Bates about the nature of the charges and the rights the former Council member is giving up through a plea agreement with federal prosecutors. He resigned his Council post last night, effective immediately.
Venable partner Seth Rosenthal stood next to Thomas as he addressed the judge. The firm's D.C. managing partner, Karl Racine, and another lawyer for Thomas, Frederick Cooke Jr., sat at Thomas' table during the hearing, which lasted about an hour.
A court security officer stood behind Thomas and Rosenthal at the podium in front of the judge. Several other officers stood guard at the courtroom door. The room filled quickly with about 100 spectators before the start of the hearing.
Jonathan Haray, an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, briefly recited a factual statement of the charges. Haray said Thomas stole taxpayer money, diverting it through public-private partnerships.
Prosecutors contend Thomas stole District money for personal use, spending the unearned cash on luxury items that included a sport-utility vehicle and a $23,000 motorcycle, in addition to trips and restaurants.
Thomas faces a maximum sentence of 13 years in prison on the two charges. But his lawyers and prosecutors agreed the sentencing range is 37 to 46 months. Bates, however, warned Thomas that sentencing guidelines are not mandatory. The judge will have the final say.
Thomas is free pending sentencing, scheduled for May 3. He cannot travel outside the District of Columbia metropolitan area without first alerting court officials. Thomas was ordered to check in with a pre-trial official via telephone once a week.