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Man freed twice from jail pleads guilty in three cases



Published: Tue, September 27, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The defendant faces up to six years in prison on four cases.

By ROGER G. SMITH

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Edward J. Thomas could do some prison time now that the jailhouse door has stopped spinning for him.

Thomas -- released from the Mahoning County jail twice this year because of overcrowding only to pick up more charges -- pleaded guilty in three cases Monday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Thomas, 21, of East Warren Avenue, faces up to 41/2 years in prison for his guilty pleas.

He is expected to plead guilty in a fourth case, too, which could add up to 18 months more to his sentence. A fifth case, a misdemeanor receiving stolen property charge, also is pending in Mahoning County Area Court in Boardman.

Sentencing to come

Sentencing before Judge James C. Evans of common pleas court will come in several weeks at a hearing after a presentence report is filed. He is being held without bond until then.

Thomas pleaded guilty to a receiving stolen property charge involving a January car theft. In exchange, he had two related charges dismissed: possession of criminal tools and having a vehicle with a concealed identity.

Assistant Prosecutor Michael Villani said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the two charges. There was no evidence Thomas had criminal tools with him when arrested and it was unclear why the charge was filed, Villani said. Also, the car was stolen a month before the arrest and there was no evidence that Thomas was the one who changed the car's VIN number, he said.

Thomas also pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property in a February car theft and carrying a concealed weapon in May.

Stolen property

Villani said Thomas also is expected to plead guilty to a bill of information on a receiving stolen property charge in the coming weeks. That move would leave only the case in Boardman pending.

Thomas was given emergency release from the county jail in June and in September because he was a nonviolent offender. A federal court order limits the jail to more than 296 inmates despite a capacity of 596.

Sheriff Randall A. Wellington has called Thomas a "prime example" of inmates who get out and get arrested again.

Judge Evans issued warrants for Thomas after a Sept. 6 arrest. The judge revoked Thomas' bonds and ordered him held in jail regardless of the release policy. The warrants, however, were issued after Thomas was released. Thomas was pulled over by police several days later and held.

His record

Thomas has a court record that dates to just after he turned 18.

While Judge Evans was going through the necessary questioning on the plea deals Monday, he asked Thomas if he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Thomas told the judge he would be if he had come from the streets, but wasn't since he has been held in the county jail since being picked up on the warrants.

rgsmith@vindy.com




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