Christopher Thomas says he got in over his head. After all, he’d helped the feds before.
On Friday, a federal judge sentenced the 26-year-old man to an additional 28 months in prison for giving federal investigators phony recordings that he made himself while acting as an informant.
“It is unusual, fortunately, [but] it’s really serious,” U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo said.
In August 2016, Thomas — who had worked as a law enforcement informant in the past — was being held in the Livingston County Jail. He told federal investigators that he overheard two “violent gang members” also being held in Livingston County discussing threats to witnesses in their own case.
Thomas wrote a fake letter “that contained a false and fictitious discussion of plans to intimidate these witnesses.” He said he received it from one inmate with instructions to give it to the other but instead turned it over to the FBI, according to federal court records. The FBI then conducted surveillance on the witness and federal prosecutors sought a court order to wiretap the person’s phone.
Eventually, the FBI gave Thomas a wire to wear to record the two inmates discussing their “plans.” Thomas gave federal investigators tapes, but they were cooked up by him, when he was alone and speaking in different voices.
“They did not discover until later that defendant was alone at the time the recordings were made, and the recordings consisted only of defendant talking to himself in different voices,” prosecutors said in their sentencing recommendation.
Asst. U.S. Attorney Christine O’Neill agreed that Thomas’ case was “a rather unusual one” and said, “The chance of this particular defendant committing this particular offense again is zero.”
O’Neill sought a 33- to 41-month sentence because “There’s an important message of deterrence to be sent,” she said.
Thomas’ attorney, Joshua Adams, had asked for a 24-month sentence, which would run concurrent to Thomas’ eight-year prison sentence for aggravated vehicular hijacking. Thomas, who has several other arrests for violent crimes and has served prison time before, pleaded guilty last month.
Bucklo opted to make the sentences consecutive.
Adams said he thought Bucklo’s decision was “fair and reasonable.” O’Neill declined to comment after the hearing.
Thomas was led into the courtroom shackled and flanked by three U.S. Marshals. He was wearing black jail sweatpants but also sported a white, button-down dress shirt, which he tucked into his pants once his handcuffs were removed and he was seated in the jury box.
Before the hearing began, Adams noted that Thomas asked for the shirt from the Illinois Department of Corrections.
“That’s how seriously he’s taking this case,” Adams said to the court probation officer.
While addressing Bucklo, Thomas said that he couldn’t fault a rough childhood or a bad upbringing for the choices he made.
“My mom, family, I dragged them through this stuff with me,” Thomas said. “I made bad decisions.”
Thomas said his 2-year-old son — whom he has never held because of his incarceration — gave him a new outlook and motivation.
“I started looking at stuff in a different way,” he said. “I have a child now and I want to be a better person for him. Now I have a new goal.”