Legal expert: Mayor Richard Thomas’ deal is like a ‘get out of jail free’ cardPosted: Updated:
The fate of Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas sent shockwaves through the local legal community.
Thomas was facing six felony counts and potentially years behind bar, but his fate changed in an instant with his admission of guilt. Jail time was now off the table, and the plea deal only had him confessing to misdemeanors and paying a $13,000 fine.
His legal team heralded the plea agreement.
“We're happy the mayor got a fair and just result for him the citizens and now he and the city can move forward,” says Mike Pizzi.
Pace Law School professor and former prosecutor Bennett Gershman likened it to a sweetheart deal and a “get out of jail free” card.
“It’s more than puzzling. I suppose you can say it’s shocking in the way this case evolved,” he says. “Plea deals that were much tougher than the one that happened yesterday, and you sort of look at it and you say 'What happened here? How could this happen?”'
How it happened remains a mystery.
The mayor's lawyers aren't giving up details about their last-minute negotiations, nor is Attorney General Letitia James or her office talking about what led to the plea on the very day the trial was set to begin.
Gershman says he's never seen a case where a defendant who had already rejected at least two prior plea deals got one so good.
“If you steal, if you cheat, usually there should be some kind of punishment,” says Gershman.
Thomas' deal wasn't a total win. The ambitious politician is being forced out of office and politics for a year.
With no one talking, Gershman says the public has no choice but to draw their own conclusions about who, if anyone, pulled strings in the mayor's favor.