“Frequent Flyers” Are Not Harbingers of Anarchy

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

In a recent article on this blog, Jim Bacon cited the case of Ronald Thomas as a possible harbinger of a “descent into anarchy.”  One commenter cited 13 prior charges, many of which were “nol prossed”.

Just looking at a list of charges and their results can be misleading. It is necessary to look at the context.  It is common for law enforcement to charge a defendant with several separate offenses connected with the same incident.  It is also common, during the process, for prosecutors to reduce some of these charges and recommend an adjudication of nolle prosequi (“nol pros”) if the defendant pleads guilty to one or more charges.

A summary of the appearances of Thomas in Fairfax County and Arlington County district courts is set out below.  It is apparent that Thomas has been a busy man lately.  It is also obvious that he is an example of a long-time bane of law enforcement, sheriffs, and courts—a nonviolent offender who is in and out of jail frequently.  These are often referred to as “frequent flyers”.

I do not mean to diminish the seriousness of Thomas’ offenses.  Stealing is serious, especially to the person being stolen from.  In the latest incident involving Thomas,  the theft of costly, high-end cosmetics can quickly run into thousands of dollars.

However, the cycling in and out of the judicial process of nonviolent offenders is nothing new.  Thomas’ court records pre-date Descanos and Dehgani-Tafiti, the Commonwealth Attorney bête-noires of some on this blog.  I am sure that one could go back into the court records of 10 or 15 years ago, if not further, and find other examples of nonviolent shoplifters and other types of petty thieves going in and out of the criminal justice system.  Today’s example, while demonstrative of a seemingly intractable problem in the judicial system, is hardly another step toward anarchy.

In recent months, Thomas has been bouncing between Arlington and Fairfax district courts.  It is likely that, in setting sentences, judges in one jurisdiction were aware of Thomas’ status in the other jurisdiction.

In reviewing the “rap sheet” below (derived from the state’s court database), one needs to keep the following definitions and observations in mind:

LarcenyGrand larceny is a felony, carrying a possible sentence of one to twenty years in prison.  Peitit larceny is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail.  For many years, the statutes defined grand larceny as the theft of anything worth $200 or more.  In 2018, the General Assembly raised the grand larceny threshold to theft of anything worth $500 or more.  The 2020 General Assembly further increased the grand larceny threshold to $1,000 or more.

Bail—Release of an offender on bail, and the amount of bond required, if any, is the decision of a judicial officer, either a magistrate or judge.  Commonwealth’s Attorneys can weigh in sometimes and ask that a bond be increased, but, generally, they are not involved in bail decisions.

Time served awaiting trial—Under Virginia law, anyone convicted of a criminal offense shall receive credit for time served while awaiting trial to be applied to his sentence.  In those cases below in which Thomas was held in custody and released on bail, he sometimes was in jail before his trial for a longer period than his ultimate sentence.

Waiver of extradition—In the court records, Thomas is shown as having a Maryland or District of Columbia address.  In several cases, the court record shows “waived extradition” as the result of the case.  Contrary to the assertion of one Bacon’s Rebellion commenter, “waived extradition” in the court record does not mean that the state or locality declined to extradite an offender from out of state. Rather, it means the opposite.  It signifies that the fugitive for whom there is an out-of-state warrant (in this case, Thomas) has waived extradition proceedings and the requesting state can come and pick him up directly without having a hearing or needing the governor’s approval. https://www.simmsshowerslaw.com/extradition-in-virginia/


Summary of Virginia judicial proceedings against Ronald Demetrious Thomas:

 4/17/2017.  Fairfax District Court.  2 counts stemming from offense committed on 11/26/2016, arrested same day.  Defendant held in custody.

Count #1: Grand larceny, more than $200, Class 6 felony. Reduced to petit larceny, class 1 misdemeanor.

  • Plea: Guilty
  • Sentence: 60 days, suspended; unsupervised probation for 1 year
  • Court costs–$547 (past due)

Count #2: Obstruction of justice, with force. Class 1 misdemeanor

  • Nolle prosequi

4/18/2017. Fairfax District Court.

Fugitive warrant.  Extradition waived.

2/15/2018.  Arlington District Court.

Arrested on petit larceny charge.  Released on summons.  Failed to appear for scheduled court appearance.  (See 1/30/2021)

11/25/2020.  Arlington District Court.

Fugitive warrant.  Dismissed.

1/13/2021.  Arlington District Court.  2 charges stemming from 2/15/2018 petit larceny charge.

Charge #1: Petit larceny. Misdemeanor

  • Plea: Guilty
  • Sentence: 30 days, no probation.
  • Costs: $221 (past due)

Charge #2: Failure to appear.

  • Nolle prosequi

11/23/2021.  Fairfax District Court.  5 charges stemming from 1/12/2021 incident, for which he was arrested on 8/11/2021.  Released on bail.

Charge #1: Grand larceny, more than $1,000. Class 6 felony.

  • Plea: Nolo contendere
  • Finding: Guilty
  • Sentence: 12 months in jail; 12 months suspended.
  • Probation: 2 years, supervised
  • Costs: $342

Charge #2: Grand larceny, reduced to petit larceny. Class 1 misdemeanor.

  • Plea: Nolo contendre
  • Finding: Guilty
  • Sentence: 12 months in jail; 12 months suspended
  • Probation: 2 years supervised
  • Costs: $476

Charge #3: Grand larceny.

  • Nolle prosequi

Charge#4: Petit larcency-3rd Felony

  • Nolle prosequi

Charge #5: Petit larency-3rd Felony

  • Nolle prosequi

2/15/2022.  Fairfax District Court

Petit larceny.  Committed 1/10/2022; arrested 1/10/2022; released on bail.

  • Plea: Guilty
  • Sentence: 30 days, suspended
  • Probation: None
  • Fine: $50
  • Costs: $212 (all past due)

4/5/2022.  Arlington District Court

Hearing on petition of State for violation of conditions of probation (11/23/2021, Fairfax)

  • Dismissed

5/13/2022.  Arlington District Court.  4 charges stemming from offense committed 3/28/2022. Denied release on bond upon arraignment; appealed to Circuit Court—denied bail.

Charge #1: Identify theft—obtaining ID to avoid arrest, Class 1 misdemeanor.  Amended to falsely identifying one’s self to law enforcement.

  • Plea: Guilty
  • Sentence: 180 days; all suspended
  • Probation: None
  • Costs: $150

Charge #2: Assault on law enforcement officer, Class 6 felony. Reduced to assault and battery, Class 1 misdemeanor.

  • Plea: Guilty
  • Sentence: 180 days; all suspended
  • Probation: None
  • Costs: $536

Charge #3: Misdemeanor

  • Nolle prosequi

Charge #4: Petit larceny

  • Nolle prosequi

5/18/2022.  Fairfax District Court.  In custody on fugitive warrant

  • Extradition waived

7/14/2022. Fairfax District Court. Probation revocation hearing scheduled for two charges of violation of probation