Former district attorney in western Pennsylvania gets prison time for attacking a woman

Aug 17, 2023, 12:17 PM

Ex Somerset County D.A. Jeffrey Thomas is escorted to his sexual assault hearing at Somerset County courthouse by Somerset County Sheriff Dept. Dusty Weir on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023. (Todd Berkey/The Tribune-Democrat via AP)

(Todd Berkey/The Tribune-Democrat via AP)

SOMERSET, Pa. (AP) — A former western Pennsylvania district attorney was sentenced Thursday to up to seven years in prison after a jury convicted him of attacking a woman in her home.

Somerset County’s former elected District Attorney Jeffrey Thomas was sentenced to between just over two years to seven years in prison after a Somerset County jury found him guilty earlier this year of strangulation and criminal trespassing, both felonies, and simple assault, unlawful restraint, indecent assault and false imprisonment. He was acquitted of sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault.

Thomas, 37, a Republican, is required to register with police as a sex offender for 15 years, the state attorney general’s office said.

Thomas’ attorney, Ryan M. Tutera, said in a phone interview Thursday they consider the sentence to be too high but that it could have been more “devastating” had he not been acquitted of several charges. Tutera said Thomas maintains he’s innocent of the charges.

Defense lawyers say Thomas intends to appeal, citing evidence that was barred from the proceedings.

“We were hoping to see him come home,” Tutera said. “Had the jury heard everything about the case, I feel confident they would have come to a different conclusion.”

The charges stemmed from a September 2021 incident in which, police said, a woman told investigators Thomas repeatedly contacted her over several years to seek a sexual relationship and would drive around her house. After he sent her a message saying he was headed to her home, she told him to stay away, according to the arrest affidavit.

Thomas showed up at her home and she told him to leave, and the physical attack followed, police said.

Thomas faces unrelated charges of simple assault, reckless endangerment and harassment after state police alleged that he was seen on a video call punching a woman as the two rode in a vehicle in May 2021.

He was elected in 2019 but was suspended after charges in the sexual assault case were filed.

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Former district attorney in western Pennsylvania gets prison time for attacking a woman