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Attorney charged with cocaine possession, evidence and witness tampering
HARRISONBURG -- A federal grand jury indicted local attorney and former chief Winchester prosecutor Paul H. Thomson on Thursday on witness tampering, evidence tampering and cocaine possession charges.
Thomson, 56, of South Loudoun Street, Winchester, was indicted on one count each of evidence tampering, conspiracy to tamper with evidence and altering documents to influence a federal investigation, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Harrisonburg.
He also was indicted on two counts of witness tampering and one count of cocaine possession.
Thomson's assistant, Nannette S. Boden, 35, also was indicted Thursday. She faces one count each of conspiracy to tamper with evidence, evidence tampering, altering documents to influence a federal investigation and cocaine distribution.
The indictments accuse the pair of altering a phone company record on Aug. 28.
Thomson is accused of "attempting to corruptly persuade" a man named Oscar Salvatierra-Jovel on Nov. 24 and Jan. 9 to give false information to investigators with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Salvatierra-Jovel, formerly of Thomas Court, Winchester, was arrested on cocaine distribution charges with three others in August as part of a three-month investigation by local and federal authorities. The Frederick County Sheriff's Office said at the time the men were in the country illegally and some had ties to the MS-13 gang. Salvatierra-Jovel was described as the main target of the operation.
It could not be confirmed whether Thomson's charges are directly related to Salvatierra-Jovel's pending drug case in U.S. District Court. However, Thomson replaced an assistant federal public defender as counsel for Salvatierra-Jovel on Dec. 10, according to court documents.
That appointment was reversed seven days later by U.S. Judge Glen E. Conrad after Salvatierra-Jovel requested to be represented by the public defender. Conrad set a Jan. 10 hearing to settle the matter.
The court informed Salvatierra-Jovel on Jan. 10 that Thomson would not be present. The same day, authorities arrested Thomson and charged him with one count each of tampering with a witness and conspiracy to tamper with evidence in a federal drug investigation. They charged Boden with one count of conspiracy to tamper with evidence.
Thomson and Boden since have posted bond and face preliminary hearings Monday.
Meanwhile, Winchester Circuit Judge John Wetsel Jr. has postponed Thomson's cases in the city and Clarke County circuit courts for at least a month, according to a letter dated Thursday.
Judge John R. Prosser has postponed all of Thomson's cases in Frederick County Circuit Court to Feb. 22, but did not issue a written statement, according to Clerk Rebecca Hogan. Judge Dennis L. Hupp, who presides over circuit courts in Shenandoah and Warren counties, had not made a decision later that day, according to the judge's secretary.
Wetsel stated in a letter to U.S. Magistrate Judge James G. Welsh, dated Thursday, that he would continue "all substantive court proceedings, such as trials and entry of guilty pleas and judgments, until after Feb. 21."
Wetsel and Thomson, accompanied by his attorneys, J. Benjamin Dick and John Flannery, met Wednesday afternoon in the judge's chambers at the Winchester-Frederick County Joint Judicial Center.
Welsh had ordered Thomson, as a condition of release on bond, to apprise Wetsel of his situation in the federal court and meet with the circuit judge.
"Given the present posture of this case, my authority to regulate Mr. Thomson's practice of law is limited to those courts in which I regularly preside," Wetsel states.
The judge also notes Thomson, as a result of the conference, and with respect to his practice in the Winchester and Clarke County circuit courts, has agreed to comply with the conditions imposed by Welsh. Also, Thomson has agreed to "submit to examination by appropriate health care providers and substance abuse counselors and comply with any regimen of treatment recommended by them."
Thomson cannot currently practice law in the Western District of Virginia per a special condition of his bond as set by Welsh.
Wetsel stated he made his decision after reviewing the criminal complaint, supporting affidavit, conditions of release and other documents, all filed with the federal district court and also faxed to his office.
Wetsel also faxed the documents to legal counsel for the Virginia State Bar who advised the judge the organization "is monitoring the situation," the letter states.
"In the event that you find that Mr. Thomson has violated any of his conditions of release, I would ask that you immediately advise me of that fact," it says.