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State v. Thomas

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

October 23, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
KENNETH SETH THOMAS

          APPEAL FROM THE NINTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF RAPIDES, NO. 336, 230 HONORABLE HARRY FRED RANDOW, DISTRICT JUDGE.

          George Lewis Higgins, III COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Kenneth Seth Thomas

          J. Phillip Terrell, Jr. District Attorney, Ninth Judicial District Catherine L. Davidson Assistant District Attorney COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana

          Court composed of John D. Saunders, Phyllis M. Keaty, and Jonathan W. Perry, Judges.

          JONATHAN W. PERRY JUDGE.

         Kenneth Seth Thomas ("Defendant") appeals his sentence of three years in the parish jail subject to work release for the crime of abuse of office, a violation of La.R.S. 14:134.3.[1] For the following reasons, we affirm Defendant's sentence.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURE

         Defendant, a member of the Alexandria City Police Narcotics Division, was arrested and charged in a bill of information with distribution of marijuana and abuse of office. The charges filed by the State alleged that Defendant received "sexual contact or intercourse" by using the authority of his position as a duly commissioned police officer. Defendant pled guilty to the charge of abuse of office and the drug charge was dismissed in conjunction with the plea. On November 26, 2018, the trial court sentenced Defendant to serve three years in the custody of the Louisiana Department of Corrections without hard labor. The sentencing colloquy is quoted below:

Mr. Thomas, . . . the . . . offense of abuse of office for which you have entered a plea of guilty is viewed by this Court as both a serious and troubling offense. And let me explain to you . . . why I say that and I view it . . . in that regard. At the time of the illegal activities which formed the basis of . . . the activities of which you . . . entered the plea of guilty to these amended charges, you engaged in those activities as a member of the Alexandria Police Department. It is the view of this Court that your conduct . . . formed a very serious breach of your oath, a solemn oath . . . that you took at the time . . . that you were sworn in as an Alexandria police officer. It is also a breach of trust, trust that is held by the community that you serve and, and people that come to this community and would have any interactions with a police officer, and it is also a trust that is held by your fellow police officers. The oath and trust that is represented by the badge and the uniform that you wore convey to all, your fellow officers, and this community integrity, respect for the rights of all, and you made the choice and the decision to trade . . . your oath and trust to satisfy not only your sexual desires but also I believe, . . . in furtherance of your view of power and control.
. . . [T]hese serious illegal acts occurred while you were in uniform, while you had a weapon on you, while . . . you were on duty. I think it's apparent to you that this Court . . . is of the opinion that a police officer holds a high duty and a responsibility . . . to the people of the community that he serves and also to his fellow law enforcement . . . officers. To one that much is given, much is expected. And so, your breach of conduct as a police officer, in my view, has to be held to a higher standard.
Mr. Thomas, . . . I have considered . . . the provisions under Code of Criminal Procedure Article 894.1 as to aggravating and mitigating circumstances. I considered the . . . case . . . report . . . prepared by the Louisiana State Police in furtherance of their criminal investigation . . . of . . . the activities, the illegal activities . . . committed by you, and I have . . . received and read each of the letters . . . that have been written by family and friends to this Court . . . in your behalf.
Mr. Thomas, one of the most challenging difficult things that a judge is called to do is to sentence someone. Regardless of what the nature of the offense, serious or minor, part of the responsibility of the Court is determining what's fair, what's just, what serves . . . the community and . . . does right by that. [Y]our case is no different. I, I want to tell you that . . . several of the letters . . . I reread, . . . because this, the . . . Kenneth Seth Thomas that they spoke about in their letters I couldn't find in the case . . . report by the State Police. I didn't see someone that they represented to the Court as being this moral, upstanding, . . . individual. I couldn't find him in there.
Under Article 894.1, aggravating circumstances that I found: one, at all times during the commission of the underlying criminal offenses forming the amended charge, . . . which you entered a plea of guilty, . . . you acted . . . as a law enforcement officer in his official capacity. You breached your oath as a law enforcement officer by engaging in illegal and corrupt practices while on duty and in the uniform. Your engagement in illegal and, and corrupt practices resulting the plea of guilty diminishes and undermines the reputation, the integrity and the credibility of law enforcement in this community. I truly believe that there is a real risk of that happening . . . as a result of . . . your . . . behavior. Of your possessing illegal drugs with the intent to distribute - - your interference with a narcotic investigation in which you instructed another narcotic officer not to . . . inspect and inventory the victim's automobile, . . . during a narcotics . . . interdiction at one of the local motels. Your destruction of a public document, . . . being . . . the tearing up of a traffic citation to demonstrate to the victim that you had power and control. Your coercion and intimidation of this female victim for the purpose of obtaining sex on more than one occasion. That you knew or should have known that the victim that you coerced and intimidated for sex was particularly vulnerable due to her illegal activities. The only mitigating factor that I could identify is the fact that you don't have a prior criminal history.

         Defendant filed a Motion to Confirm Oral Appeal and Designation of Record on December 21, 2018, which was granted by ...


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