Legal expert: Case against Mount Vernon mayor not a slam dunk

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MOUNT VERNON -

The case against the mayor of Mount Vernon may not be a slam dunk, according to one legal expert.

Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas was arrested Monday on corruption charges. Thomas, 35, is in his first term as mayor and is accused of using campaign and inauguration funds as his own personal piggy bank. Authorities say he spent thousands of dollars on rent, car payments and expensive purchases.

Some of Thomas' constituents are standing behind him, saying they don't believe the allegations are true.

MORE: Mount Vernon mayor: 'I will be fully vindicated'

Bennett Gershman, a legal scholar and Pace Law School professor, says the charges against the mayor are serious but he believes the mayor could potentially mount a powerful defense because the campaign finance laws offer a lot of leeway for politicians.

"As I see it, I don't see it as a slam dunk," says Gershman. "I see there are certain places where he could argue lack of intent, mistakes and argue he had no culpable intention."

Residents say they are willing to give the mayor the benefit of the doubt until his day in court. 

Thomas is due back in court May 1. He faces six years behind bars if convicted.

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