SOUTH BEND — After a year in jail in lieu of a $750,000 bond, Delano M. Thomas is nearing release after reaching an agreement with the state. Defense attorney Harold Karlsvik found evidence that undercut the prosecution’s original charge.
Thomas, 50 at the time, was arrested on Nov. 7, 2019 for shooting Jesse Wescott, age 53, in the groin area. Thomas said he acted in self-defense after a long-simmering neighborhood feud over a dog caused him to fear he would be attacked. Thomas called deputies a few hours before the shooting to report Wescott had walked past Thomas’ house and said something like “I’m in a local fight club, and you’re dead.”
Thomas said Wescott came at him with a collapsible baton, according to a probable cause statement. Wescott told deputies he took out the baton when Thomas came at him with a gun. A woman with Wescott told deputies Wescott never took out the baton. Wescott has prior felony convictions, his most recent in 2006 for failure to register as a sex offender.
The defense attorney last week told the judge that the deal and case took quite a bit of time and work. Karlsvik commended a hired private investigator referred to as “Mr. Williams” for helping bring the matter to an end. Thomas told a Chinook Observer correspondent that the break in his case was the investigator locating an emergency medical technician who observed an unexplained knife at the scene that another witness alleged was pocketed by the woman who was with Wescott before deputies arrived.
Thomas pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm in the first degree due to a previous felony conviction while living in California. In the agreement, the state dropped the more serious charge of assault in the first degree. Richter went over the agreement and confirmed with Thomas that he agreed to the reduced charge.
The firearms pleas agreement carries an agreed-upon 15 months of in-custody time followed by 12 months of community custody. Richter made it clear he didn’t have to accept the agreement and could sentence Thomas in the state-allowed sentencing range of 15 to 20 months.
Karlsvik also made it clear he didn’t feel the court would ever see Thomas again and that before being arrested, he worked a good job at the Ocean Beach Hospital and had not been in any other local trouble. Thomas’ prior convictions mostly occurred more than 20 years ago in California.
Thomas is expected to be a free man in February 2021. Richter also waived most of his fine, leaving a mere $600 balance.