Herman Thomas, the former circuit court judge who resigned in 2007 before being indicted nearly two years later on 180 criminal charges related to abuse of power, may be one step closer to returning to public office after he placed second in the municipal election for District 1 on the Mobile City Council last week.
Although his law license was suspended after he was accused of having sexual relations with prisoners, paddling them in his private chambers and objectively transferring cases from other judges’ dockets to his own, the charges against Thomas were ultimately dismissed in 2009 after the jury deadlocked. Thomas was disbarred in both Alabama and Florida following the conclusion of his trial, despite not being convicted.
In 2010, he attempted a political comeback by running for Alabama State Senate District 33 against incumbent Vivian Figures. Figures, who had testified against Thomas in his trial regarding corporal punishment administered to her son, easily defeated the former judge. He made another try for elected office in 2018, running for Alabama House District 99, but finished a distant second to Sam Jones in the primary.
Last week, he managed to lock up enough votes to finish second to relative political newcomer Cory Penn, who he will face in a runoff election Oct. 5. While it appears to be political taboo for other candidates to discuss the allegations against Thomas, a lawsuit filed last year indicates they may haunt the former judge for years to come.
Allegations about Thomas actually emerged years before the criminal indictment was unsealed, by way of a 2001 civil lawsuit filed by Michael Dewayne Anderson, a convicted murderer. He claimed Thomas proposed they engage in “homosexual activity” in 1994, after Anderson had been released from prison on a robbery conviction. Anderson claims he declined the advances, but Thomas retaliated against him when he was charged with a murder in 2000.
His state claims were subsequently dismissed by an appointed judge, but Anderson followed up with a federal lawsuit in 2003, again alleging he had been “subjected to the indimidations of [Thomas’] homosexual desires for his personal gain.” The complaint also included affidavits from three other witnesses about Thomas’ alleged behavior.
One, John Richardson, contained mostly hearsay, alleged “facts” gathered by Richardson by observing and talking to other petty criminals while incarcerated at Mobile Metro Jail, where he said inmates were routinely “checked out” by Thomas for a sexual rendezvous. But a second affidavit, by Gary Blunt, swore Thomas actually “propositioned me about having sexual activity with him on several occasions, because he knew I was on probation from New York.”
“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,” Blunt wrote. “I tried to explain to him that I didn’t indulge in that type of activity of homosexuality, so at some point, he became angry with me.”
Blunt claims Thomas then released him from jail only to arrest him the next day, and then sent him to prison on a revocation hearing.
“I pray this madman gets some help for his addiction for men,” Blunt concluded.
A third affiant, Nathaniel Agee, swore Thomas “inflicted burden and humiliation in my life.”
“[We] started off going fishing together, hanging out together, he would even drop by my house early some morning(s) and say he wanted to talk,” Agee wrote. “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. After a while, [he] started coming by my home at early hours in the morning, but when he found out my children were there he started to become angry because we couldn’t be alone with each other.”
Agee claims that separately, he testified against police officers who were friendly with Thomas and when Thomas heard about it, “he told me I would be going to prison, so get ready.”
“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 wrote.
Then-U.S. Magistrate Judge Kristi Dubose dismissed the complaint, finding its basis wasn’t “altogether clear,” the federal court had no jurisdiction over a state appeal, and “any claim that plaintiff would bring to seek the prosecution of the defendant or to mandate that state officials prosecute defendant is without legal merit.”
Nearly 20 years after Anderson’s complaint, Corey Diamond filed one against Thomas last year. It too was dismissed as frivolous and for failure to state a claim, but when reached by phone last week, the plaintiff said his accusations against Thomas are real.
“It’s in the court record, nothing ever happened sexual to me, but he told me to pull my pants down and he would paddle me,” Diamond said, adding he reported the incident to state and federal investigators, but never received a call back. “It was deeper than Thomas though. There were attorneys, judges and police picking and choosing who they would lock up and who they would let go. It was a government inside a government.”
Outgoing District 1 Councilman Fred Richardson all but endorsed Thomas last week as a familiar leader who will “no doubt take my place and keep it going.” Third-place finisher Chamyne Fortune-Thomson, whose 23 percent of votes could easily swing the race toward either Thomas or Penn, has not responded to requests for comment. Penn declined to comment, noting he’s running a positive campaign.
Reached by phone this week at the Red Eagle Community Work Center in Montgomery where he is currently completing a 24-year sentence for murder, Anderson said he’s since been focused on his upcoming parole hearing, but he believes he still has a claim against Thomas, and he may file a new lawsuit if he’s released.
“I feel like it was a political move by him to punish me for not partaking in what he wanted to partake in,” Anderson said, adding he was surprised to hear Thomas was a viable candidate for City Council. “I don’t feel compelled to think he needs to be anywhere in the public eye again with what he did, and the way he just eased out of the whole situation, I don’t think that’s right either. He damaged a lot of people and he messed up a lot of guys’ lives. You just think we should wipe your slate clean while everyone else is paying their dues to society?”
Anderson said he provided a statement to agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation about Thomas, but otherwise was never approached by anyone interested in his claims.
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