Prosecutor charged with violently raping woman in her home

MARK SCOLFORO
Associated Press
Somerset County District Attorney Jeffrey Thomas is shown during an interview in Johnstown, PA., Wednesday, Jan.15, 2021.   Thomas was charged Wednesday, Sept. 22, with violently raping a woman he knew through work, leaving her home only after she told him she would not call police, authorities said. (Todd Berkey/The Tribune-Democrat via AP)

HARRISBURG — An elected county prosecutor in Pennsylvania was charged Wednesday with violently raping a woman he knew through work, leaving her home only after she told him she would not call police, authorities said.

Somerset County District Attorney Jeffrey Lynn Thomas, 36, was accused of attacking the woman in her Windber home Saturday. He was charged with rape, indecent and simple assault, strangulation and criminal trespassing.

The Republican's lawyer, Ryan Tutera, said that he was not guilty and that Thomas' wife was working to get him bailed out of the Cambria County jail.

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The criminal complaint's police affidavit said the woman told investigators that Thomas had repeatedly contacted her for several years to seek a sexual relationship and would “routinely” drive around her house.

At about 11 p.m. Saturday, he sent her a Snapchat message saying he would be at her home in minutes, to which she responded he was not welcome and to stay away. Shortly afterward, he walked uninvited into her home with several beer cans and handed her one, police said.

She repeatedly told him to leave and slapped him, police said. He then struck her face, causing her nose to bleed, then pulled down her top and undressed himself, according to the affidavit.

“During the assault, Thomas grabbed her by the neck making it hard to breath(e),” investigators alleged.

When she demanded he leave, he grabbed her by the hair and asked if she planned to contact police. He left when she said she would not, police said.

“We deny any allegations being made against him,” Tutera said.

Tutera said he has not spoken with Thomas and declined to say whether Thomas plans to resign. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for next week.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office was designated by a county judge to prosecute the case, called the charges “deeply disturbing.”

Thomas “is entrusted by the public to uphold the law and serve as a voice for victims," Shapiro said in a statement. "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.”

Somerset is a rural county about 70 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, perhaps best known for being where the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in a field on Sept. 11, 2001. Thomas, who lives in Windber, took office nearly two years ago after beating the incumbent.