Recently arrested Donald Thomas III received no jail time for previous crimes

Last updated: July 18. 2014 11:32PM - 3819 Views
By - elewis@civitasmedia.com

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List of criminal cases against Thomas, according to records from Luzerne County Court:

May 15, 2011: Burglarized a residence on Spring Street, Jenkins township. Used pillow case from inside the house to steal $5,724 worth in jewelry, electronics and furniture.

May 15, 2011: Burglarized a residence on Mitchell Street, Jenkins Township. Used a pillow case to steal comic books, cash, compact discs and a New York Yankees picture valued at $265.

May 20, 2011: Burglarized a residence on West Saylor Avenue, Plains Township. A woman confronted Thomas crawling through a smashed patio door.

May 20, 2011: Burglarized a residence on Clark Street, Avoca. Jewelry and electronics stolen valued at $4,055.

May 22, 2011: Burglarized a residence on Atherton Street, Plains Township. Used a pillow case to steal jewelry and a flat screen television valued at $2,573.

May 23, 2011: A co-conspirator with Thomas continuously rang a doorbell at a residence on Jay Street, Plains Township. A girl was inside and called her parents, who rushed home finding Thomas and a woman running toward a pickup truck.

May 27, 2011: Police recovered jewelry stolen from the houses at a gold buyers business inside the Wyoming Valley Mall.

June 16, 2011: Wilkes-Barre Township police pursued Thomas for driving recklessly on Wilkes-Barre Township Boulevard. The pursuit ended in a crash on Coal Street, Wilkes-Barre, as Thomas was able to elude capture by running into Sherman Hills.

March 4, 2014: Pleaded guilty to speeding and driving a vehicle with an expired inspection sticker in Duryea on Aug. 8, 2013.

Currently facing charges in county court:

Oct. 19, 2013: Duryea police recovered multiple items stolen from vehicles in Old Forge, Duryea and Pittston inside Thomas’ residence on Foote Avenue. Charged with receiving stolen property, illegal possession of a weapon, criminal conspiracy to commit theft and possession of drug paraphernalia. Released after posting $5,000 bail on Jan. 7.

Oct. 7, 2013: Burglarized a garage and rummaged through a vehicle stealing items in the 700 block of South Street, Avoca. Charged with burglary, criminal trespass, theft, loitering and prowling at night and criminal conspiracy. Released on $5,000 unsecured bail.

Sept. 7, 2013: Duryea police spotted Thomas entering a vehicle knowing he was wanted by police in Wyoming. Thomas eluded capture by running through a house on Phoenix Street. Charged with flight to avoid apprehension. Released on $1,000 unsecured bail.

Sept. 4, 2013: Entered Kmart, Wilkes-Barre Township, and placed a garbage can, wire cutters and a crow bar in a shopping cart. Used the crow bar to smash open a glass case stealing jewelry valued at $7,559. Released on $15,000 unsecured bail.

WILKES-BARRE — Former Plains Township police chief John Timko said he knew Donald Thomas III would turn to crime again.

If Timko and two others, Mike Fuller and Stanley Sierko, had their way, Thomas would be in state prison and houses in Hanover Township and Pittston would not have been recently plundered.

Thomas, 35, of Foote Avenue, Duryea, and his cohort, Ryan Rydzfski, 27, of William Street, Pittston, were arrested this month for ransacking a house on Boland Avenue in Hanover Township and houses on Fulton and Butler streets in Pittston.

More than three years ago, Thomas targeted the houses of Timko, Fuller and Sierko, according to court records.

He only received probation, court records say.

“They should have locked him up and threw the key in the (Susquehanna) River,” Sierko said.

Timko said he sat in the Luzerne County Courtroom on March 28, 2012, when Thomas appeared before Judge Lisa Gelb.

Sentence shocking

Believing Thomas would be sent to state prison for a few years, Timko and Sierko said they were shocked and displeased that a probation sentence was imposed.

“We were not aware of the sentence or any type of plea agreement,” said Timko, who served as police chief for four years retiring in 1993. He was a township detective for 19 years before becoming police chief. “The (district attorney’s office) did not confer with me about any of it. I would have objected to the sentence and certainly would have objected to the concurrent sentences. I really feel the (district attorney’s office) let us down.”

Thomas appeared before Gelb on a host of charges, including resisting arrest, receiving stolen property and burglarizing the three men’s houses and a fourth home burglary in Avoca.

Without any objection from the district attorney’s office, Gelb sentenced Thomas to six to 12 months in jail on a second-degree misdemeanor of resisting arrest, first-degree misdemeanor of receiving stolen property and 18 to 36 months of special probation on four counts of burglary, each graded as a second-degree felony.

Gelb imposed the sentences to run at the same time rather than consecutively and gave Thomas 276 days time served in jail, according to court records.

‘Slap on wrist’

For Fuller and Sierko, the sentence was a “slap on the wrist.”

“I’m still not over it,” Fuller said about the break-in at his home in May 2011. “I can’t say anything bad about the police. They were truly outstanding. But I was floored over the leniency of the sentence. It certainly did not take into account the seriousness of all (Thomas’) crimes.”

Like Timko, Fuller said he was not consulted by the district attorney’s office about a plea agreement and sentence.

When Thomas was charged by police in Avoca and Jenkins and Plains townships, the burglaries were graded as a first-degree felony. At the preliminary hearing, the grading of the burglaries were lowered to second-degree felonies, a move Timko, Sierko and Fuller said they were not advised about.

“He should not have been on the street,” Sierko said.

Sierko said his home was burglarized six months after his wife Florence died. Thomas had stolen his wife’s engagement ring and wedding band that were eventually recovered and returned to him, Sierko said.

Court records say Thomas plundered the homes in 2011 to support a drug addiction. Arrest papers filed by Hanover Township police this past week allege Thomas traded items stolen from the Boland Avenue house for drugs.

The recent burglary charges is not all Thomas is facing.

When he allegedly ransacked the houses in Hanover Township and Pittston, he was free on $21,000 unsecured bail on unrelated cases involving a smash-and-grab at a department store, multiple vehicle break-ins in Duryea, Old Forge and Avoca, according to court records.

Thomas was free on $21,000 unsecured bail on three unrelated cases he is currently facing in county court.

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