WINDBER, Pa. – Somerset County District Attorney Jeffrey Lynn Thomas was arrested Wednesday and charged with raping a woman on Sept. 18 after showing up at her Windber Borough residence late that night, Pennsylvania State Police said.
In a criminal complaint filed against him Wednesday, Thomas is accused of entering the woman’s home without permission after sending her a message on the social media app Snapchat.
Thomas allegedly arrived with several cans of beer and became “agitated” after the woman rejected his advances, told him to leave and slapped him. Thomas then struck her in the face, grabbed her by the neck and then raped her on her couch, Corporal Matthew Auker wrote in the complaint.
Auker wrote that Thomas only left after the woman told him she wouldn’t contact the police.
Thomas also faces charges of indecent assault, strangulation, simple assault and criminal trespass, according to a statement sent out by the state police.
The woman’s child was in the residence during the attack, according to the police report.
The woman provided details of Thomas “using marijuana with her at her residence prior to the sexual assault,” police said, although it was not clear in the complaint whether that occurred on the night of the alleged attack or in the past. She reportedly told police that she has known Thomas in a professional capacity for several years.
The investigation started on Tuesday, after the woman contacted authorities and spoke with state police in Ebensburg. PSP-Troop A’s Ebensburg Criminal Investigation Unit, Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Cambria County District Attorney’s Office and the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General worked together on the case.
Authorities searched the woman’s home on Tuesday and seized several cans of beer and items of clothing that she was wearing before the assault, according to the criminal complaint.
“Upon investigation, troopers determined that Mr. Thomas entered the home of the victim, an adult female acquaintance, without permission and remained there after being told to leave,” state police stated in a news release. “Mr. Thomas is accused of then sexually and physically assaulting the female victim inside the residence.”
Thomas was arraigned Wednesday in front of on-call Somerset County Magisterial District Judge Douglas Bell. Thomas was remanded to Cambria County Prison in lieu of $5,000 bail.
His Pittsburgh defense attorney, Ryan Tutera, said Wednesday that Thomas is innocent of the charges against him and looks forward to his day in court.
“Jeffrey has worked very hard to protect the rights of victims in Somerset County and it’s hard for me to believe these allegations are true,” Tutera said. “We believe there’s more to this story than what is being told.”
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro described the allegations against Thomas as “deeply disturbing.”
“Mr. Thomas is entrusted by the public to uphold the law and serve as a voice for victims,” Shapiro said in the police press release. “I commend the bravery of the victim that has come forward – that is never an easy thing to do, especially when your abuser is a powerful elected official. Today is a reminder that no one is above the law.”
Thomas’ preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 29 before Magisterial District Judge William Seger.
Thomas, a Republican, was sworn in as Somerset County’s district attorney in 2020. This marks the third time over less than two years since he’s been accused of misconduct.
Right-to-know requests in October 2020 revealed maintenance staff found empty “boxes” of beer and beer cans inside his office – an act that violated the county’s Drug and Alcohol Free Workplace Policy.
At the time, the county’s Human Resources director issued a letter to Thomas about the policy violation – which Thomas maintained didn’t apply to him – stressing that the county can be liable for injuries caused by intoxicated employees: “While you have supervisory responsibility for these employees under Section 1620 of the County Code, the county commissioners carry the liability insurance for them.”
“I don’t disagree that it’s an issue if someone is intoxicated beyond the legal limit, but it’s another thing if you’re acting responsibly,” Thomas said at the time, saying the county was “harassing” him with memos and warnings.
The letter was sent at a time Thomas had been pressing county commissioners to authorize him to hire additional staff for his office.
Later that same month, Richland Township police filed summary citations, including harassment, against Thomas for altercations involving workers at a local gymnastics facility and a pizzeria during his daughter’s birthday.
He was accused of using “vulgar and abusive” language while staff and customers were present at the pizza shop. He returned to the gym for the party and tried to pick a fight with the gymnastics business owner’s husband, Uzelac Gymnastics owner Brenda Uzelac said at the time.
Thomas said he was upset when pizzas didn’t arrive at his daughter’s party and got “upset,” but maintained he was not guilty of the allegations against him.
“It was a disaster, and I got upset, just like, I think, any other father who’s watching (his) five-year-old daughter upset because her party was screwed up,” Thomas said at the time.
The charges were withdrawn in February after Thomas issued apologies to both businesses.