Published: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 3:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 6:12 p.m.
DAYTONA BEACH — A former Florida Department of Children & Families investigator was sentenced on Wednesday to three years’ probation as part of a plea stemming from accusations he offered a woman his drug-free urine in exchange for sex.
In an unusual move, Andrew Thomas, 32, was offered the plea agreement over the woman’s objections that the punishment was not severe enough. The woman was not in court but was aware of the plea hearing, prosecutor Chris Miller said.
Miller said it was uncommon to offer a plea opposed by the victim. “It’s very unusual,” Miller said. “But it’s not unheard of.”
Thomas pleaded no contest to official misconduct, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Circuit Judge R. Michael Hutcheson withheld adjudication of guilt, meaning Thomas will be able to say he is not a convicted felon and won’t lose rights such as the right to vote or own firearms.
Hutcheson sentenced Thomas to the three years’ probation, along with 50 hours of community service and ordered him to continue undergoing mental health counseling.
In exchange for the plea, Miller agreed to drop two additional charges: bribery by a public servant, a second-degree felony, and falsifying records, a third-degree felony.
In agreeing to the plea, Miller said he had to take into account other factors beyond the victim’s objections.
Miller said he was concerned about the credibility of his witness and his ability to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. He also added that Thomas did not have a criminal record.
Thomas did not comment as he walked out of the courtroom. He put his dark ball cap on his shaved head and walked into the rain.
His defense attorney Allison Thero had told the judge that Thomas would be back on a plane and out of state on Wednesday after the hearing.
Miller said he also took into account that Thomas had left the state and would not be living near the woman.
The charges stemmed from a visit Thomas made on May 8, 2012, as a DCF investigator to one of his cases, a woman near New Smyrna Beach. Thomas was accused of trying to get the 22-year-old woman to have sex with him by telling her that her urine test had tested positive for drugs.
Thomas told her that he wished he could help her by taking the test for her, police said. Thomas then said that he would help her if she demonstrated he could trust her by having sex with him, police said.
The woman did not have sex with Thomas but satisfied him by removing her clothing, police said. Thomas used his drug-free urine sample and signed off on documents saying she passed her drug test, police said.
The woman’s boyfriend later called Thomas to confront him about what happened. Thomas claimed he felt pressured to help her and that he was trying to close all her DCF cases.
Thomas resigned the day after being notified of the complaint.