Former Howard County police Officer Gregory A. Thomas has been sentenced to eight years and one month in federal prison without parole for connecting two Army undercover agents with a crack-cocaine dealer in Washington.
Thomas said at his sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Baltimore yesterday that he "knew it was wrong" to be involved in the drug transactions and that he "wanted to get out of it."
But Senior Judge Frank A. Kaufman said Thomas failed to "take positive steps" to get out of his conspiracy with the drug dealer, Emmett Jones, and "was up to his ears in it for too long."
Kaufman also ordered Thomas, 27, of Columbia and Ellicott City, to serve four years on supervised release after his prison term and 400 hours of community service.
Thomas, who pleaded guilty after Jones pleaded and agreed to testify against him, was arrested by federal drug agents May 17 at Howard County police headquarters.
Court documents said Thomas gave the two Army agents Jones' phone number after meeting them in the Four Winds NCO Club at Fort Meade and telling them he could connect them with a drug dealer when they expressed an interest in buying crack.
Thomas accompanied Jones to the first sale, but later told the Army agents to deal directly with Jones.
The Army agents brought federal authorities into the investigation shortly after their first contact with Thomas at the NCO club, and tape-recorded conversations with him in which they discussed buying cocaine.
Thomas is the first Howard County police officer to be convicted of a drug charge. His arrest, which was prearranged by police officials and federal authorities, shocked the department.
Police Chief James N. Roby, who arranged the arrest with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, said afterward that he would not tolerate illegal activities by county officers.
Thomas was suspended without pay the day he was arrested. He resigned from the department effective yesterday as part of his plea bargain with federal prosecutors.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea L. Smith, who prosecuted the case, said in court papers that Thomas "knew his way around the system and abused his position of trust."
Smith argued yesterday that the three $1,000 crack deals Jones made with the Army undercover agents "were directly attributable" to Thomas' actions in sending the agents to Jones to buy drugs.
Defense attorney Gary A. Ticknor argued that Thomas should be held responsible for only the first drug sale because he never had any contact with Jones after that.
Kaufman ruled, however, that Thomas' introduction led to all three drug deals. That decision increased the defendant's minimum sentence from about five years to more than eight under federal guidelines.