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Thomson enters plea of not guilty

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Assistant joins Winchester lawyer in response to plethora of charges

By Preston Knight -- pknight@nvdaily.com

HARRISONBURG -- Former Winchester Commonwealth's Attorney Paul H. Thomson and his assistant pleaded not guilty to a combined 10 charges Thursday afternoon in U.S. District Court.

Thomson, 56, now a Winchester attorney, and his assistant, Nannette S. Boden, were indicted by a federal grand jury last week on numerous counts, and made their first court appearances since that time Thursday to be arraigned before Judge James G. Welsh.

Thomson pleaded not guilty to six charges -- two counts of witness tampering and one count each of evidence tampering, conspiracy to tamper with evidence, altering documents to influence a federal investigation and misdemeanor cocaine possession.

Minutes before, Boden, 35, appeared and pleaded not guilty to four similar charges -- conspiracy to tamper with evidence, evidence tampering, altering documents to influence a federal investigation and cocaine distribution.

Thomson, if convicted, faces up to 20 years in prison, and up to a $250,000 fine, on each charge except for the drug offense, which could lead to no more than a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Boden, meanwhile, faces the same up to 20-year sentence and $250,000 fine fate on each of her charges, except her drug charge carries a maximum fine of $1 million.

The pair are accused of altering a phone company record Aug. 28, with Thomson also suspected of "attempting to corruptly persuade" a man named Oscar Salvatierra-Jovel on Nov. 24 and Jan. 9 to give false information to special agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration, indictments state.

Salvatierra-Jovel, formerly of Thomas Court, Winchester, was arrested in August on cocaine distribution charges following a three-month investigation by local and federal authorities.

Thomson's drug possession, according to the indictment, occurred between July 2009 and Aug. 24, 2010. Boden's cocaine distribution occurred between June 2010 and Aug. 24, it states.

A trial date of March 21-25 was set for Thomson and Boden. Both are free on bond.
Before the indictments were handed down, the defendants were arrested the previous week on witness-tampering charges and held without bond because they tested positive for cocaine. At a bond hearing several days later, Assistant U.S. Attorney Grayson Hoffman said authorities had uncovered "substantial" additional evidence of Thomson engaging in a variety of obstruction of justice offenses.

Agents recorded a conversation between Thomson and Salvatierra-Jovel, then a Rockingham County Jail inmate, on Nov. 24, at which point the man, who claimed to have sold cocaine to Boden for Thomson, told the attorney that Boden's name was in his cell phone as "Neil," records state. Thomson is accused of telling him to come up with an identity for "Neil."

Records also portray Thomson's behavior in recent months as bizarre, including an incident the day after the taped phone conversation in which he was walking around Clifford Street in Winchester with a large pole and yelling, "I'm going to kill you."

A hearing to discuss defense motions in the Thomson case is scheduled for 10 a.m. Feb. 14 in Charlottesville with Judge James P. Jones. A pre-trial hearing for both cases is scheduled for 2 p.m. March 7.

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