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Thomson gets three years

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Paul Hampton Thomson

Cocaine and tampering convictions land former city prosecutor on other side of proceedings

By Preston Knight -- pknight@nvdaily.com

HARRISONBURG -- Paul Thomson had been in the same position so many times before, he knew exactly how things would play out.

A guilty defendant stands in a courtroom, tells a judge how sorry he is for the damage caused by their criminal actions, and awaits his fate as family members and loved ones sit anxiously nearby. Thomson, a former Winchester commonwealth's attorney and most recently city defense attorney, calculated that he witnessed it hundreds of times.

Before Monday in U.S. District Court, never has he been the one standing and apologizing for breaking the law and waiting to hear how long he would be removed from society. For possessing cocaine and then tampering with witnesses and evidence in the federal investigation that followed -- five charges overall -- Thomson, 56, must serve three years and two months in prison, according to a plea deal struck in June and accepted Monday by Judge James P. Jones. Three other charges were dropped.

"My clients were in the same position I am in today," Thomson said in a prepared statement. "And so I feel that I am not so special that I should not stand before all of you and the court in the same manner as my clients and accept, with a humble heart, punishment. It is the only brave thing to do."

His defense team and the federal government avoided a jury trial this summer by entering the plea deal. Jones accepted it without any questions, also ordering Thomson to pay a $7,500 fine and $7,000 in restitution to two people.

"Lawyers are given many privileges in our society, but they also have great responsibilities," Jones said. "Mr. Thomson failed to live up to those responsibilities."

Thomson, who admitted to possessing cocaine in May 2010 and then tampering with the investigation into his criminal activity, will be allowed to self report to the Bureau of Prisons at a later date.

Also Monday, Jones sentenced Thomson's former assistant, Nannette Susan Boden, 36, to three years of probation for distribution of cocaine and conspiracy to tamper with evidence in a federal investigation. She avoided prison because of her cooperation with authorities.

Jones said Boden had been subjected to enough punishment already in court filings from Thomson's defense team, which led to "unjustified" publicity that harmed her and her family. Still, she should have known better, the judge said.

Thomson was the primary offender, though, with a former client, Oscar A. Salvatierra-Jovel, serving as a cocaine supplier for him through Boden, records state. Part of the evidence tampering that occurred included having the drug dealer lie to authorities about why Boden's number was in his cell phone.

In his statement, Thomson said he does not approve of the drug-dealing lifestyle that Salvatierra-Jovel, 39, formerly of Winchester, had because it results in addiction.

Thomson was among the victims of such addiction, and he said it developed with a "nagging chronic sadness" of the death of a young son and murder of former Winchester police Sgt. Ricky Timbrook.

"Many want to know how [post traumatic stress disease] affected me," he said. "Although I am in the early stages of recovery, I can say the repetitive unfair feelings of guilt, the constant feeling of depression over the loss, and the flight to intoxicants are symptoms.

In this case, the government even released messages from me to others before my arrest in January showing that I was trying to grapple with and understand my symptoms of sadness from Rick's case and others."

Repeating words used by U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy in June, Jones called Monday a "sad day."

"This case is truly a trying one," he said. "[T]he outcome of this case will serve, hopefully, to re-invigorate our fellow citizens' faith in [the court] system."

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