Thomas trial on sex assault charges begins

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Six men and six women will continue listening to testimony in District Judge Donald E. Rysavy's courtroom today, as George Gilbert Thomas, 53 of Austin, is on trial for criminal sexual conduct.

Thomas is accused of four felony counts, stemming from allegations he had sex with a 15-year-old female who was three months pregnant.

Thomas was an outreach coordinator for the Welcome Center at the time and had met the alleged victim through a cultural diversity class he facilitated.

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The incident allegedly took place in Thomas' apartment in May 2001. It was not reported until nine months later.

"This particular case is about action speaking louder than words. You are not going to see or hear anything … there is no semen, no DNA test. We are focusing on the act that occurred between the victim and the defendant," said Patrick W. Flanagan, Mower County Attorney, in his opening statement.

The prosecution also mentioned what the jury would hear from the alleged victim, stating that she was someone who was unsure of herself and enjoyed hearing the comments.

"You have to weigh the testimonies and evidence shown. Victims are people and not angels … use the credibility of the witnesses to make a decision that will be beyond reasonable doubt," said defense attorney Karen Duncan.

In her opening statement, Duncan challenged jurors to look hard at the testimony of an alleged victim she described as a "very troubled young girl."

After opening statements Monday morning, Flanagan called his first witness, Stephanie Morgan, the landlady at Thomas' apartment building.

Then, Flanagan called the alleged victim to the witness stand. The 17-year-old, dressed in blue jeans and a long-sleeved navy blue cotton shirt, was asked by Flanagan when she first met the defendant and what had been the nature of their encounters.

"I heard from friends about the diversity group," the teenager said.

A few minutes into the questioning the teenager, broke into tears and stated, "I can't do this."

At this point, Rysavy suggested a morning recess for the courtroom.

When testimony resumed, the teenager told the courtroom about the last meeting with the defendant.

"I'd seen him again, not for class, but for some testing … it was in the same building," the teenager said.

She then proceeded to say at this meeting it was only the defendant and her. The teenager said they were going to go over some interviews and Thomas told her they should go over to his house.

The two walked to his house, which she stated was at a short distance from the center. Once inside the house, the teenager said there was someone else in the house.

"He told me to go into the bedroom and shut the door," the teenager said.

The teenager said Thomas told the other individual that he "had some stuff to take care off," and the person left.

"We started talking. He started telling me that I was beautiful and pretty and wanted to know about me … I was standing in front of him, for some reason I stood up again. He wanted to see my belly," the teenager told the courtroom.

The teenager continued to described the incident in detail and what proceeded to happened.

After the incident, the alleged victim said she went back home and took a shower and washed her clothes. The incident surfaced several months later as she told a therapist at the Gerard Treatment Program facility.

Flanagan's questioning ended when he said a taped conversation between the alleged victim and Thomas would be presented after the noon break.

When testimony resumed Monday afternoon, defense attorney Duncan cross-examined the teenager at length. Duncan had asked the teenager questions to clarify "inconsistencies" in the timeline of incidents.

Then the prosecutor offered an audio tape of the telephone call the teenager placed at the request of Austin Police Department detective David T. Schaefer from the Gerard Treatment Program facilities to Thomas at the Welcome Center.

In that conversation, the teenager is heard telling Thomas her Gerard therapist plans to tell police the story she told about having sex with the man.

Thomas invites her to his Welcome Center office to discuss the situation in person and the teenager complies.

Austin police activated a transmitting device and the teenager put it in her pocket and went to the meeting that same day in February with Thomas.

With two police detectives listening and recording the conversation a short distance from the Austin Professional Services building, where the Welcome Center is located, the teenager is heard telling Thomas, "I don't want you to lose your job."

Thomas is heard whispering to the teenager, during the conversation.

He also is heard saying, "I want to help in any way I can."

According to the teenager, when she told Thomas she had told her Gerard therapist, who said she was mandated to report it to police, Thomas wrote her notes.

Duncan continued to attack what she said were inconsistencies in the teenager's testimony throughout the afternoon, including detailing the five different treatment centers the alleged victim had visited.

Julie Mougin, an assistant Mower County Attorney, took over some of the questioning until Karen Hinkley, the Gerard therapist who the teenager confided her alleged sexual liaison with Thomas, took the stand.

Hinkley testified the teenager suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Specifically, Hinkley told the court, the teenager's disorder involved attention-seeking, melodramatic behavior, saying what she wanted others to hear and triangulation.

Hinkley described triangulation as "trying to get others involved in a situation," when questioned by Duncan.

Liliana Silvestry-Neilon, director of the Welcome Center, testified briefly early in the afternoon. The prosecution attempted to elicit from Silvestry-Neilon that Thomas was not allowed to meet privately with any of the Welcome Center clients/consumers he encountered.

Duncan was able to ascertain from Silvestry-Neilon that Thomas had earned "satisfactory" evaluations from his superiors while employed at the agency.

The afternoon ended with the testimony of veteran Austin police detective Schaefer and provided testimony in the form of the video-taped interview the teenager made with police on Feb. 20, 2002.

The jurors and everyone else in the courtroom were focused on the stark black-and-white television images of the detective and the teenager sitting alone in an interview room at the law enforcement center.

In graphic detail, the teenager described her alleged encounter with Thomas at his apartment in May 2001.

Speaking softly, the teenager responded to the detective's questions with only a minimum of prodding or encouragement.

Meanwhile, the girls' mother, Hinkley and two other detectives watched the interview from another room on television


"He told me everything I wanted to hear," she said in the interview, "and I kind of fell into it. I had sex with him."

Thomas watched the video interview from the defense table.

Throughout the afternoon, Thomas alternately whispered to his defense attorney or conferred with a female acquaintance in the spectators's gallery.

The jurors had written transcripts to compare what they heard on the audio tapes as allowed by Rysavy and submitted with the concurrence of the defense attorney.

Roxana Orellana can be reached at 434-2214 or by email at and Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at