published Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Former Alabama legislator gets 1 year in jail over sexual contact with high school student

CAMDEN, Ala. — Former state Rep. James Thomas of Selma was sentenced Thursday to one year in jail on a charge of having sexual contact with a female student at the Wilcox County high school where he was principal.

Wilcox County Circuit Judge Jack Meigs gave Thomas the maximum sentence. A jury last month found the 69-year-old Thomas guilty of the misdemeanor sexual contact charge but not guilty of a felony sexual abuse charge.

He has been held in the Wilcox County Jail in Camden since his conviction. He was wearing his orange jail uniform at Thursday’s sentencing hearing.

Thomas’ attorney, Lewis Gillis, gave notice that the former legislator will appeal. Before announcing the sentence, the judge turned down a request by Gillis to throw out the conviction.

Gillis did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.

Meigs set a $25,000 bond for Thomas while his conviction is being appealed.

At the trial, the victim, now a 19-year-old college student, testified that Thomas kissed her and made her touch “his private parts” when she was alone with him in his office at Wilcox-Central High School in Camden in November 2010.

At Thursday’s hearing, the victim’s mother asked Meigs to give Thomas the maximum sentence, Wilcox County District Attorney Michael Jackson said.

Jackson said Thomas will now be required to register as a sex offender. As a sex offender, he won’t be able to return to a school job, Jackson said.

Thomas is the former president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. He served in the Alabama House for 28 years before losing in 2010 in the Democratic Party primary.

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