October 5, 2022
By David Rowe, Associate Editor
Nearly five months after Oakland Police Department (OPD) officers cited Tim Thomas, Peralta’s Director of Public Safety, for two misdemeanor offenses following an altercation with an elderly RV resident near the district offices, the Alameda County District Attorney’s office decided to move forward with those charges, and added a third misdemeanor offense.
Kim Hunter, Senior Deputy District Attorney for Alameda County, filed the charges against Thomas on Sept. 28, according to the Alameda Superior Court online records portal. The case number is 22-CR-011743. The three charges filed (all misdemeanors) include:
- Elder or dependent adult abuse, statute 368(b)(1)
- Battery – statute 242
- Grand theft person – statute 487(c)
When asked by The Citizen if it is unusual for a District Attorney to add charges beyond those included in the police citation, Hunter said it is “absolutely normal” and explained that her office “makes the determination of what penal code was violated” and considers the “seriousness of injury” in deciding if the charges should be misdemeanors or felonies.
Based on a redacted OPD incident report obtained through a public records request and on statements from OPD spokesperson Kim Armstead, The Citizen reported on May 18 that Thomas became involved in a physical altercation on May 6, 2022 with Tom Jensen, a 75-year-old resident of an RV parked on 5th Avenue near the district offices in Oakland.
Jensen hit his head on the sidewalk, requiring treatment by paramedics at the scene, and was taken to Highland Hospital for a scan. Three OPD officers, who were on the scene investigating a different incident, issued the citation to Thomas for misdemeanor elder abuse and battery.
The new misdemeanor grand theft charge added by the DA is based on the allegation that Thomas confiscated Jensen’s flip phone during the altercation. According to Hunter, Thomas told OPD officers he took Jensen’s phone because “he’s taking pictures of me.” Jensen told The Citizen that OPD officers returned the phone to him.
Thomas’ initial court appearance will take place on Oct. 20 at 2 p.m., according to the Superior Court portal. This will be an arraignment hearing, according to Hunter, and will determine if Thomas has legal representation. Thomas and his attorney will be given the opportunity to enter a plea to the charges. This will be followed by a pre-trial date where negotiations and a possible resolution to the charges can be reached, according to Hunter.
If no resolution is reached, a trial would be the next step. Hunter was not certain if the Oct. 20 hearing will be in person or via video conference.
While Hunter would not speculate on the severity of the sentence Thomas may receive if convicted, she cautioned against assuming that “because misdemeanors were charged that a person does or does not have to serve time.”
Edwin Prather, Principal Attorney of the Prather Law Offices, is representing Mr. Thomas in this matter. While the district referred to Prather as Thomas’ “personal attorney,” the San Francisco-based law firm has done legal work for PCCD since at least 2018. An agreement dated Sept. 23, 2018 listed Prather’s hourly rate to the district as $375, discounted from the normal $550 per hour.
Prather said he stands by his earlier statement sent to The Citizen on May 11, that the RV resident (who he did not identify by name) “shoved a camera into Mr. Thomas’ face, yelling expletives at him, and again threatened Mr. Thomas’ life.”
In his latest email to The Citizen, Prather characterized the DA’s actions as “another politically-charged decision” and called the case a “misuse of the court system.” Prather concluded by saying “Mr. Thomas looks forward to his vindication in this matter.”
Back in May, Jensen told The Citizen “the threats were decidedly one sided against me.” He said Thomas threatened to tow his RV and told Jensen not to take his picture with a flip phone. Jensen says Thomas then “ran towards me…and knocked me over.” Jensen said he fell and hit his head on the sidewalk leaving him with blood in his hair and on his shirt.
The Citizen checked with the California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) to see if the misdemeanor charges could affect Thomas’ ability to secure or retain a security guard license.
According to Peter Fournier, Information Officer for the Department of Consumer Affairs (which includes BSIS), “when the Bureau receives notice that a licensee has been arrested and/or charged with a criminal offense, the Bureau may seek restrictions on a license during a criminal investigation.”
Fournier also informed The Citizen via email that California’s Business and Professions Code requires that “the registration of a security guard shall be automatically suspended if the guard is convicted of any crime that is substantially related to the functions, duties, and responsibilities of a security guard.”
Fournier would not comment if any such actions were being considered in Thomas’ case. He also could not comment on how the misdemeanor offenses could affect Thomas’ ability to hold a POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) certification, since that license is issued by a different state agency.
Peralta’s job description for the Director of Safety position, which was issued in Jan. 2021, stated “possession or eligibility to obtain a POST Management Certificate is optional.”
Mark Johnson, Peralta’s Executive Director of Marketing Communications and Public Relations, says the district stands behind its May 2022 statement calling the actions by OPD “an error” that it hoped would be “swiftly corrected.”
The district statement also praised Thomas for “working tirelessly to make each of the college campuses and the District office safer for students and staff since he started in November 2021.” Johnson referred The Citizen to Prather for any additional comments.