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Chip Drago
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Some doubting Thomas surprised
by inmate 'spanking' accusations

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
Allegations that suspended Judge Herman Thomas paddled inmates should not have come as "news" to the veteran jurist who was sued five years ago by a prisoner making the same accusations.

In the fall of 2002, convicted murderer Michael Dewayne Anderson charged that authorities were "fully aware of Judge Herman Thomas continually going to the Mobile County Metro Jail, and getting teenage boys out for a paddling on their butt. I know of teenage boys with trafficking cases that pulled down their pants and took a paddling, and agreed to spend time with Judge Herman Thomas and he put them on the streets free."

The inmate sued Thomas for "bad faith, fraud and misrepresentation" in his judicial role.

Anderson complained that Thomas pressured him for a personal relationship after his release from prison in 1994. In support of his claims, he supplied four affidavits, his own and those of three other lawbreakers who swore that Thomas took extraordinary liberties with his authority from the bench to the jail and into the community itself.   

Anderson is a convicted murderer and a career criminal. The other three also have criminal records of various lengths.

"... he (Thomas) advised me that if trouble came he could help, but if I refused him, he could make it hard for me and Judge Thomas has made it hard from District Court to the Circuit Court ..." Anderson stated.

Three of Anderson's fellow miscreants offered sworn statements about their own experiences with the judge.

The late Judge Robert G. Kendall, then presiding judge of Mobile County Circuit Court, dismissed the complaint six seconds after it was filed, according to court records.

Anderson attempted to revive the case in federal court on Dec. 12, 2003. Senior U.S. District Judge W. Brevard Hand dismissed that complaint as well, although at a more stately pace of 39 days.

One of the three members in Anderson's chorus, John Richardson has a rap sheet replete with property crimes between 1999-2002.

"When I used to be in the Mobile County Metro Jail, it was sad to hear the young dope dealers out of Toulminville and Prichard saying that they were going to take a paddling on their butts from Judge Thomas to be released," Richardson said in his Nov. 26, 2002 affidavit. "They would call Judge Thomas at his home like this was just something to do, but he would come just as they said he would. This court only has to check the records of the Mobile County Metro Jail, and the truth will come to light."

Gary Blunt's record shouts "thief," with burglary, robbery, receiving stolen property and theft of property appearing regularly between 1997-2006.
"(Thomas) knew that I was on probation from New York," Blunt swore in his Oct. 10, 2002 statement. "He always told me that I would need his help in the long run, and it would be good to have him in my corner. I tried to explain to him that I didn't indulge in that type activity ..., so at some point, he became angry with me ... and said he would make sure that I went to prison. He didn't lie. Herman Thomas sent me to prison."

Nathaniel Agee Jr., now 29, also numbers property crimes on his record.

In his sworn statement on Nov. 22, 2002, Agee said he and Thomas "started off going fishing together, hanging out together; he would even drop by my house early some morning and say he wanted to talk. He gave me money when I was in jail, and even got me out of jail when I promised that we could spend time together."

Agee claimed Prichard police ripped off him "and some other fellows, saying that it was dope money." Agee agreed to cooperate with federal authorities investigating the incident, he said.

Agee alleged that Thomas told him not to testify against the Prichard officers, but "I did testify ... and when Judge Thomas found out about it, he told me that I would be going to prison, so get ready. ... he was going to sentence me the way that he wanted, and that he did."

"Judge Thomas takes advantage of young men's lives with his power of the court, and it's hard to get around him if you're on his docket," Agee stated. 

"All these people are not just making up things to say about this same Judge Thomas ...," Anderson asserted. "If it takes the news stations, newspapers or anyway that I have to (I will) make sure that justice is served on Judge Thomas. If the Federal Bureau of Investigation has to come in and get the records to prove this case, that will have to be done."

"This judge has a pattern ...," the inmate charged. "But justice will catch up with this situation in the end."   

Experience has taught court personnel to regard the claims of criminals with great skepticism.

However, as prosecutors regularly argue when using malefactors as witnesses, it is the criminals themselves, not Sunday school attendees, who have first-hand knowledge of wrongdoing. 

Thomas is currently under investigation by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission which recently undertook to delve into the "spanking" claims. The judge reportedly had a second smaller, windowless office at the courthouse where he allegedly "spanked" inmates with a wooden paddle. 

The judge himself originally called for the JIC probe. Other judges complained that Thomas had poached cases off their dockets unbeknownst to them. The case tampering allegedly included instances of sentence reductions and outright releases from jail.

Questioned by the Press-Register whose Gary McElroy first broke the story that the inquiry of Thomas had expanded to include the spanking allegations, the judge reportedly said, "This is news to me." 

Thomas had no further comment which has been his stance with the news media from the beginning. A message left on the answering machine at Thomas's home was not immediately returned.

The ethics charges against Thomas are set for trial in Montgomery Oct. 29 before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.

Anderson was convicted for the mid-August, 1995 murder of Walter Jasper Hawthorne. Anderson was found guilty of gut shooting the 45-year-old Hawthorne during an argument on a Saturday afternoon in a vacant lot at the corner of St. Charles Street and St. Stephens Road.

Hawthorne died about four hours later at the University of South Alabama Medical Center.

A former resident of Turner Road in Prichard, Anderson briefly escaped from police at a traffic stop in south Mobile before his capture. Anderson was described as 5'4, 150 pounds with black hair, brown eyes and three gold teeth, the rest presumably white. He was said to be "armed and dangerous."

Ironically, Anderson, who is now 45-years-old himself and imprisoned in Springville, AL, had a Rule 32 or ineffective counsel motion assigned earlier this month to the docket of "HYT," Judge Herman Young Thomas.

It is scheduled to be heard at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov 2.

In Thomas's absence, his docket has been handled by retired Mobile County Circuit Judges Teddy McDermott and Braxton Kittrell.
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