Former Springdale cop Mark Thom sentenced to prison
By Chuck Biedka
Published: Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, 3:27 p.m.
As a Springdale Borough police officer, Mark E. Thom Jr. made dozens of arrests.
Next month, he'll begin serving his own prison sentence.
On Thursday, the discredited 32-year-old ex-sergeant was ordered by U.S. District Judge Mark R. Hornak to serve one year and one day in prison on charges of violating a suspect's civil rights.
The sentence is the culmination of almost two years of allegations and investigations involving Thom and his conduct as a Springdale police officer. He was accused twice of civil rights violations.
In the case for which he was sentenced, Thom was accused of repeatedly punching and using a Taser on a Tarentum man while the man was handcuffed and in the back of Thom's police car in December 2011.
In 2012, FBI agents and U.S. Justice Department civil rights specialists started to investigate that case as well as other accusations against Thom and some of his fellow Springdale officers. Thom could have been indicted by a grand jury in 2013, but officials offered him what amounts to a plea bargain.
Thom agreed to plead guilty to a single charge of violating civil rights.
Criminal information, the federal equivalent of charges, was filed on Feb. 8, and Thom entered a guilty plea one month later. He resigned from the force the day before he entered the plea.Sentencing was deferred several times in 2013.
U.S. Attorney David Hickton issued a written statement saying, “The vast majority of law enforcement officials uphold the highest standard of public trust. But when someone abuses his position, we will aggressively hold him accountable.
“We argued that a prison sentence was especially just, not only for the crime he committed, but also because he was discouraging other police officers from cooperating with us and providing information.”
Before Hornak handed down the sentence, Thom made a tearful apology to his own family, the man he was accused of abusing and the Springdale community.
Thom said he “always wanted to help” as an officer and “do what's right. ... I'm sorry for not having been a better police officer and not doing my job better.”
Defense attorney Robert E. Stewart told Hornak that Thom overcame a troubled family life, losing his younger brother to drugs, yet managed to finish high school and become a police officer.
Several letters from community members were presented, all citing Thom's good character and detailing how he helped them. In addition, letters from two police officers were presented, accusing Thom of threatening them if they cooperated with the investigation against Thom.
Hornak said, given the charges and Thom's position as a police officer, a prison sentence was warranted.
Hornak told Thom, “You will never wear a badge again.”
But the judge, instead of scheduling a date for Thom to begin his sentence, allowed Thom to remain at his home until notified by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons about where and when to report for his sentence.
Thom must report to the U.S. Marshals Office in Pittsburgh no later than noon Feb. 27 if the Bureau hasn't called him before then, Hornak ordered.
Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
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