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Army vet enters guilty plea to series of armed robberies

Thursday, March 7, 2013 12:53 PM
Last updated Friday, March 8, 2013 12:13 AM
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An Augusta man who left college after 9/11 to join the Army and served two tours in Afghanistan before returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder, pleaded guilty Thurs­­day to armed robbery.

C. Thomas  SPECIAL
C. Thomas

Calvin Thomas Jr., 32, apologized to his victims in Richmond County Superior Court. It wasn’t until he was medicated for PTSD and schizoaffective disorder that he realized how wrong his actions had been, he told the court. He said he has taken full responsibility since his arrest last fall and told investigators his younger brother – who was arrested on the same charges – is innocent.

Thomas and his brother were targeted by Richmond County sheriff’s investigators who had spotted the pattern of armed robberies of people cashing checks at the Wal-Mart in south Augusta, Assistant District Attorney Adam D. Land told the judge Thursday.

Working the main lead they had – a description of the van the assailant used – the detectives searched vehicle registration data to find possible matches and narrowed their search to the area they believed most likely to lead to a suspect. They zeroed in on the van that Thomas’ mother owns, Land said.

Between Sept. 19 and Oct. 26, Thomas went to the Wal-Mart and waited for potential victims cashing checks.

He then had his brother follow the people, the prosecutor said. Thomas wore a bandana over his face and used a BB gun that looked real to pull off the holdups, Land said.

In a plea negotiation, Thomas agreed to plead guilty to two counts of armed robbery and two weapon violations in exchange for the prosecutor’s sentence recommendation of 15 to 20 years in prison.

Assistant Public Defender Penelope Donkar told the judge that Thomas graduated from Lucy C. Laney High School and had three years of college before joining the Army in 2002.

Thomas had no previous felony records, Donkar said, and she asked the judge to take his military service into account and sentence him at the low end of the sentencing agreement.

Judge J. Wade Padgett said Thomas did deserve appreciation for his service. The soft-spoken, polite man in court, however, wasn’t the person his victims saw when they were faced with an armed man, Padgett said.

Padgett sentenced Thomas to 20 years in prison, followed by five years on probation. He will have to serve a minimum of 10 years before parole is possible.

His brother, Kelvin Thomas, 24, is in jail awaiting trial on armed robbery and weapon charges.

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Fiat_Lux 03/08/13 - 10:39 am
This is really sad

and it's really, really sad that the armed services tries to push so many of these guys out of the service without correctly diagnosing and treating them, or giving them any real options for help after they're out. Disgusting really.

As bad as what he did was, and it must have been terrifying for his victims, Calvin Thomas was sick. I know many would disagree, but I don't believe he should be held to the same standard of accountability as someone without PTSD who committed crimes such as these. PTSD robs a person of himself.

Dixieman 03/08/13 - 09:36 pm

First, I think PTSD is a myth. How come John Kerry and Al Gore don't have it? How come most veterans don't?
Second, what about his "schizoaffective disorder" which has absolutely nothing to do with his military service?
Lots of people enter the service with pre-existing problems. Some get better as a result of their military service, some don't. But it makes me sick to see veterans who get into trouble try to con the public by blaming their problems on the military.
P.S. I am a Vietnam veteran.

Fiat_Lux 03/07/13 - 05:34 pm
It's certainly open to debate, Dixieman, whom I esteem greatly

I believe they used to label it as "shell shock", and honestly, I believe the people of the current generation of combatants go in with a much higher risk factor for it than did the several generations before them.

It is, after all, the trophy generation, and even the well-brought-up ones, the brave and resilient as well, aren't prepared for what happens to them in the same way that my generation (Boomers) and my parents and grandparents were when they participated in the world wars, at home and oversees. The perspective on what life is and is all about is totally different.

Fiat_Lux 03/07/13 - 07:17 pm
Well, Troll

It would be nice to know why you have a problem with the statement above instead of just having you register your disapproval anonymously. It's just a discussion, not a disagreement or even a debate.

So man up, unless of course you really do just troll for certain people's comments so you can do the safe, and IMO, weasel-y red thumb thing.

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