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Thomson faces count of conspiring to alter federal documents in drug case
By Alex Bridges -- email@example.com
HARRISONBURG -- Winchester attorney and former chief prosecutor Paul Hampton Thomson faces disbarment and prison time if convicted in federal court of evidence and witness tampering.
Thomson and his assistant, Nannette Susan Boden, remain held at different regional jails without bond, each charged with one count of conspiring to tamper with evidence and to alter documents to influence a federal drug investigation, between Aug. 25 and Nov. 24, according to online records. An affidavit filed in the case in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg states Thomson tampered with a witness on Nov. 24.
The defendants face serving up to 20 years in a federal prison on each charge if convicted, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office said.
Authorities charged the co-defendants in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg in documents filed Thursday then unsealed by magistrate Judge James G. Welsh on Monday. Welsh ordered Thomson and Boden held without bond because they both tested positive for drugs.
Thomson, 56, of 219 S. Loudoun St., is currently incarcerated at Central Virginia Regional Jail in Orange. Boden, 35, is being held at Rockingham Regional Jail and has a bond hearing set for Thursday. The judge had not scheduled a hearing for Thomson as of Tuesday.
Attorneys convicted of a felony face automatic suspension of their license to practice law in the state, according to Jim McCauley, ethics counsel with the Virginia State Bar Association. McCauley would not comment on Thomson's case specifically.
Several of Thomson's current clients appeared for scheduled times in Frederick County and Winchester circuit courts on Tuesday morning. In Winchester, Judge John Wetsel Jr. postponed Thomson's cases to give defendants time to make other arrangements.
The Drug Enforcement Agency and the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug Task Force on May 26 made the first of five controlled purchases of cocaine from a confidential source in Winchester, according to an affidavit filed by a special agent.
Agents arrested the informant on Aug. 24 after negotiating a buy for 10 ounces of cocaine, the affidavit states.
The informant spoke to investigators and claimed to have sold cocaine to Thomson and Boden on several occasions in the past few months, according to the affidavit.
Transactions occurred at 204 S. Loudoun St., the affidavit states, property identified as owned by Thomson. Boden bought the cocaine for Thomson from the informant.
"Among the statements made by CS1 was that he/she had been selling cocaine HCl to an attorney in Winchester named Paul Thomson," the affidavit states. "CS1 said he/she had met Thomson approximately three months prior at his law office in Winchester.
"CS1 said approximately one month after this initial meeting he/she made his/her first cocaine HCl to Thomson. CS1 said he delivered the cocaine to Thomson's assistant who CS1 knew as 'Neil.' Further investigation revealed that Neil is actually Nannette Boden."
Thomson and Boden visited the informant at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center days after the arrest and asked whether agents had inquired about the informant's customers, the affidavit states, to which the informant replied "no." In response to a question from Thomson, the informant said Boden's cell phone number was saved in the informant's phone.
"CS1 said Thomson became agitated and told Boden to change her cellular telephone immediately," the affidavit states.
Agents recorded a conversation Nov. 24 between the informant, then at the Rockingham jail, and Thomson. The informant told Thomson that Boden's name was in the phone under the name "Neil." Thomson told the informant to come up with an identity for "Neil."
But the next day, at approximately 7:45 a.m., Winchester police were called to check out a suspicious person or mental subject on West Clifford Street, according to an incident report filed in the federal court.
A caller reported seeing Thomson walking with a large pole, wearing a green vest and "yelling 'I'm going to kill you.'" The officer said Thomson "appeared erratic in his movements, and he had difficulty completing a sentence before moving on to further thoughts," the report states.
Longtime friend and fellow attorney William A. "Beau" Bassler was standing by at the scene, according to the report.
"Bassler informed the officer that Paul had appeared erratic for past several weeks, and appeared to be worsening," the report states.
The officer spoke to Thomson's wife, Anna, who said she was worried about her husband.
Thomson was taken to Winchester Medical Center but released after a counselor from Northwestern Community Services determined that he did not meet the criteria for a temporary detention order.