Reaction to mistrial mixed

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 16, 2003

The son was happy and the father happier.

That describes the reaction of Tyson Thomas, 21-year-old son of George Gilbert Thomas, 53, and his father in a Mower County courthouse hallway Wednesday afternoon.

District Court Judge Donald E. Rysavy declared a mistrial Wednesday in the elder Thomas' trial on criminal sexual misconduct with a then-15-year-old teenager.

Email newsletter signup

"I'm surprised that it took this long to get things straightened out," Tyson Thomas said. "I'm happy."

"Needless to say, I'm elated," George Thomas said after Rysavy issued the mistrial ruling Wednesday. "I'm not gloating."

Thomas was employed as outreach coordinator for the Welcome Center at the time the victim said the incident occurred. One of his duties was to facilitate an after-school class for teenagers on the subject of cultural diversity. That's how the teenager and Thomas met.

Thomas was also honored by the city of Austin after his life-saving actions to help an elderly couple escape their burning home. He organized "community circles" for the Welcome Center to bring Austinites together to discuss racially-sensitive issues, involving new ethnic minorities moving to Austin.

A year ago, he led a parade through Austin on Martin Luther King Day.

After a teenager told a therapist in confidence she had sex with Thomas at his son's apartment, Thomas was arrested by Austin police detectives at the Austin Professional Services building, where the Welcome Center is located. He was taken to the law enforcement center, interviewed and jailed on felony criminal sexual conduct charges.

The Welcome Center subsequently terminated Thomas from his job.

When Rysavy notified attorneys and the defendant that he was declaring a mistrial, Thomas said he felt relief.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's over," he said after Wednesday's announcement. "I got God on my side."

Duncan said Tuesday's testimony began to favor the defense.

When Austin Police Detective David T. Schaefer revealed Wednesday there existed letters, notes and other written materials that he used in his investigation, but which Duncan said had not been provided to her or Thomas, Duncan objected.

According to Duncan, therapist Karen Hinkley's notes of the interview, in which the teenager divulged her account of sex with Thomas, were missing.

Also non-existent for the defense was a letter written by the alleged victim that Gerard provided to Austin police.

Still another crucial piece of evidence, according to Duncan, was a hand-written statement the alleged victim made for Austin police.

"This made it very frustrating to form a defense," she said.

Duncan also noted, she and her client had requested a speedy trial three months ago, which Rysavy agreed to.

"This means a trial is supposed to be scheduled within 60 days," she explained. "Then, the prosecution asked for a 30-day continuance and we agreed. They had as much time to prepare for trial as we did, but something happened with the evidence."

Duncan agreed Thomas has not been exonerated by an innocent verdict of a jury.

"It would have been so much more satisfying to hear the words 'not guilty' uttered by a jury in that courtroom," she said.

Austin Police Chief Paul Philipp reacted to the announcement.

"My first response is that I am extremely frustrated and disappointed and I feel very bad for the victim," he said.

Philipp met with Flanagan Wednesday afternoon to discuss the circumstances that led to the judge's mistrial declaration. "We want to try to track down how certain documents didn't get into he hands of the defense," he said.

Another meeting will be held this week on the subject of the missing evidence.

Philipp did not criticize detectives investigating the teenager's account.

"I believe the investigation done was competently and done properly," he said.

Lee Bonorden can be reached at 434-2232 or by e-mail at