Robert Thomas is 93 years old and alive – but not well – and living in Clark County Jail.
He shot a maintenance worker at the leasing office of his Las Vegas apartment building because he was upset that his apartment had flooded causing water damage to virtually everything he owned..
Thomas, who is certainly one of the oldest shooters in recent memory, used a 9mm Glock to shoot his victim twice in the leg on January 2.
Thomas, who stands 5-foot-9, and weighs 130-pounds, also shot a computer.
He was arrested within minutes of shooting the man.
The victim was injured but not fatally.
Thomas was charged with attempted murder with a deadly weapon, kidnapping with a deadly weapon, carrying a concealed weapon without a permit, burglary with a gun, and discharge of a firearm indoors.
Police released a video of the attack.
The video clearly shows Thomas – who despite his advanced age – and though clearly doing a despicable act – was not attempting to murder the man.
He shot him in the leg – deliberately. He was firing at close range and the video shows he was aiming at the leg of the man. Not the head or torso.
That does not excuse the violence, but it was not attempted murder. It was assault with a deadly weapon and the police know this. This is classic overcharging.
The kidnapping charge also seems to be an overreach. Yes, he held the man at gunpoint for approximately 5 minutes from start to finish. But he was not kidnapping him or holding him for ransom.
He was threatening him with a deadly weapon. He was berating him, but not kidnapping him.
The police are so accustomed to overcharging that this is now the norm – instead of the old way police used to operate – charge the alleged perpetrator for the most serious crime they are alleged to have committed.
Thomas did not attempt to murder the man and he was not kidnapping him.
While it’s true that he was carrying a concealed weapon without a permit and that he discharged a firearm indoors, those are also bullshit tack-on charges. Especially the discharge of a firearm indoors. If he got convicted of these alleged crimes, they would not likely add to his assault with a deadly weapon charge. The sentences would likely run concurrently.
Yeah sure he discharged the firearm indoors – but it was only to assault a man with a deadly weapon.
That’s the real and only charge that should have been brought in this case.
As for burglary with a gun? I watched the video. I don’t see the old man looking to steal anything.
While it is, of course, odd to see a 93-year-old man shooting anyone, he did not appear to be committing burglary. That’s a crime that is usually committed by much older men. But skipping that, the second most interesting aspect of the case is the overcharging. The crime stacking.
And to point out that that the current policy of police and prosecutors – a relatively new one – is not limited to old men.
Everyone charged these days gets overcharged and it makes the criminal justice system ripe for plea deals and not going to trial and getting justice.
By overcharging, prosecutors kind of extort defendants into taking plea deals instead of risking going to trial.
If old man Thomas was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, his true crime, he would have little reason not to go to trial. But if he is charged with attempted murder – and presupposing Thomas is not senile or insane – and kidnapping and burglary – all things which he did not do – he will likely be more inclined to not risk trial and take a plea deal – for say – assault with a deadly weapon.
In this way, prosecutors are able to avoid trials. And the technique works equally well with the guilty and the innocent.
Overcharge a defendant to the point where he cannot risk trial and even the innocent will have to think twice about taking the safer route.
If the actual crime might carry a prison penalty of 5 years, charge the defendant with crimes that carry a 20-year penalty. Then, they will be glad to take 5 years for a plea deal. And the prosecutor avoids a trial.
The Innocence Project has shown that about 10 percent of those they exonerated via DNA evidence took plea deals – that is admitted they were guilty and DNA evidence showed them to be innocent later.
That means defendants who knew they were innocent lied to the judge and said they were guilty so as not to risk an excessive prison penalty through a trial.
This is not how the system is supposed to work.
There is supposed to be a trial – and charges are supposed to be proved. And to prove them at trial beyond a reasonable doubt, they are supposed to be accurate charges. It does not work that way anymore.
Now some of you may say – “Good, overcharging spares us lots of trials – and criminals are locked up faster. We don’t need a judiciary, we need prosecutors and police. They should decide who’s guilty and skip the judge and jury.”
But what about those who are innocent?
The policy of overcharging impacts the guilty – like old man Thomas – and the innocent alike.
And if anybody thinks police and prosecutors always get it right – or even that they want to always get it right – they are incredibly naive.
Nobody doubts that a president can be corrupt or a senator. What makes people think that police and prosecutors cannot be corrupt?
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely – and prosecutors have almost absolute power. We clearly need checks and balances – and the trial by jury is one such check and balance on prosecutors and police.
And one of the first steps to get around a jury trial is to purposely overcharge in order to try to get the defendant to accept a plea deal and, thereby, avoid the risk of going to trial when he has been overcharged.
The problem is – it is a travesty for the innocent. For prosecutors coerce innocent defendants also into taking plea deals rather than risk excessive sentences.
As for Thomas, who is not guilty of the more serious charges he was charged with – if he lives to make it to trial – if there is a trial – he will be convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and not attempted murder or kidnapping.
But he probably won’t make it to trial. If he lives, he will probably take a plea deal. Chances are he is senile or mad – and will end up getting institutionalized.
No doubt his health will deteriorate fast in jail. He will get sick most likely – and then wind up in a hospital and quite possibly dying there. Jails are no place for 93 year old men.
The judge ordered him held on $25,000 bail pending a January 22 preliminary hearing. I doubt he will make bail. And I doubt he will make it to trial.
Of course, he must have been a mean-spirited, perhaps even a vicious old man. But also one who took leave of his senses. Otherwise, he would have known he had no chance of committing this crime and getting away with it.
I predict this will end up being a virtual act of suicide for Mr. Thomas.