Mount Vernon – On day 1049 of his term, Mayor Richard W. Thomas was given the opportunity to end the criminal case against him and avoid jail Tuesday by pleading guilty to a felony, being placed on probation and resigning immediately. Mayor Thomas rejected the plea deal and his lawyers called the deal unconstitutional.
The plea offer was announced by Assistant Attorney General Daniel Cort. It came at the end of a court hearing in which Westchester County Judge Barry Warhit allowed Pizzi and another Florida lawyer, Ben Kuehne, to be admitted to practice in New York as part of Thomas’ defense team, lohud reported.
“The criminal justice system does not stand as a veto on the will of the people,” Kuehne told reporters outside the courthouse. “The public elected Mayor Thomas by an overwhelming margin and only the public can determine whether he is fit to be their mayor. They’ve determined that and that’s the place, the ballot box, not a criminal courtroom. The Attorney General’s Office misunderstands a fundamental concept of our constitutional democracy.”
The argument is moot because the Mount Vernon City Charter calls for a mayor to step down if convicted of a felony, so it doesn’t really matter if the criminal justice system or NYS AG’s office has the power to demand a sitting mayor of Mount Vernon to resign, the framers of the city charter do.
The mayor maintains his innocence and defiantly stated his innocence, saying he wanted his day in court and will not stop doing the work of the city.
“I’m not going to stop working for the people of our city,” Thomas tells reporters outside the courthouse.
We reached out to Mayor Thomas for comment, his press secretary Maria Donovan, sent us a statement he wrote on his Facebook page
Mayor Thomas is facing six felony counts for allegedly using his campaign and inaugural accounts for his own personal use. He was arrested in March, but since then the case has been mired in controversy.
Judge Barry Warhit ruled Tuesday that he would allow Mike Pizzi and Ben Cuehne, Thomas’ Florida legal team, to try the case even though he was concerned they might be conflicted because they also represent Joe Spiezio, an advisor and major campaign donor of the mayor and a potential witness in the case.
No trial date has been set. Lawyers for both sides will be in court on Tuesday, January 18, 2019
A grand jury is also considering whether any crimes were committed when some of Thomas’ legal bills were paid for with city funds as prosecutors have claimed, lohud reports.
Stay tuned to Black Westchester for more on this developing story, The saga continues!