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Harry Thomas Jr. Sentenced To 38 Months In Prison

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Former D.C. Council Member Harry Thomas Jr. has been sentenced in federal court to 38 months in prison for stealing government funds.

Thomas pleaded guilty earlier this year to embezzling more than $350,000 in public funds and filing false tax returns. While characterizing himself as an advocate for the youth of the District, he secretly used funds earmarked for youth programs on lavish trips and a luxury SUV.

In making this decision, Judge Bates used the word "betrayal" nearly half a dozen times, saying Thomas had betrayed the public trust, his colleagues, his family and most importantly, the underprivileged children the funds he embezzled were supposed to help.

Before the sentence was handed down, Thomas faced the judge and offered what he called a "brutally honest assessment" of why he stole the money. He said it came out of a sense of entitlement; that he lost touch with his morals when took office. He apologized for the humiliation he caused his family and the city.

Pressed by reporters in Wednesday's bi-weekly press conference to comment on the sentencing, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray reluctantly weighed in on the actions of his former colleague on the council.

"I don't understand why this happened," said Gray. "I haven't asked, I haven't seen him. I don't know why this happened. It was a shocker to me."

Lawyers for Thomas made the case that the former councilmember should receive a lighter sentence because of his past work with the city's youth. In a follow-up letter to the judge this week, defense attorneys for Thomas criticized the prosecutors recommendation filing, calling it an unjust caricature of Thomas.

The 38-month prison term he received was less than the nearly four years in prison prosecutors called for, but is still a lengthy sentence. Judge Bates said he hopes it will serve as a deterrent to other public officials.

There is no parole for federal sentences, so Thomas will serve the full term.

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