Man gets 'deal of the century'

Friday, January 30, 2009

A former Greencastle man got what his court-appointed attorney James Recker said "might look like the deal of the century" Thursday in Putnam County Circuit Court.

Thomas L. Gorham III, 28, of Centralia, Mo., was in court to be sentenced on what were originally charges of Class A felony dealing in methamphetamine and Class B felony dealing in methamphetamine.

But under the terms of a plea agreement Gorham -- who spent one day in jail after being arrested and posting bond in October of 2007 -- pled guilty to one Class D felony possession of meth charge and was given an 18-month suspended sentence.

Senior Judge Diana LaViolette seemed shocked by the drop in the charges against Gorham, and asked Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter for an explanation -- noting that people "spend more time in jail for driving on a suspended license" than Gorham would for a much more serious charge.

Bookwalter explained that a delay in charging Gorham was at the root of the plea agreement. An investigation into Gorham's suspected drug dealing activities began in August 2006, with controlled buys being conducted by law enforcement officers.

It was September of 2007, Bookwalter said -- over a year later -- when formal charges were filed against Gorham.

In the time between the controlled buys and when Gorham was charged, Gorham got his life together.

"The buys were conducted in 2006 and the charges were filed in 2007," Bookwalter said. "In the meantime, Mr. Gorham moves to Missouri, gets a $35,000-a-year job, licks his drug problem and starts taking care of his children."

Bookwalter called Gorham "a success story."

"I know I'm going to be subject to criticism, but I stand by my decision," Bookwalter said.

Putnam County Probation Officer Cody Tillotson conducted a pre-sentence investigation in the case, and said he received confirmation that Gorham had completed an eight-month outpatient drug treatment program in Missouri.

Gorham said the impetus for his recovery was his fiancee and their three children, ages 6, 4 and 1 1/2.

"I looked at my kids and I knew I had to do something," Gorham said. "I moved away from all my influences up here, and it's been a great thing."

Gorham is now working two jobs -- one in the IT department of a retail chain, and one as a front desk clerk at a hotel. He is also working toward a college degree, and he and the mother of his children are planning to marry in the near future, he said.

Toward the end of the hearing, LaViolette asked Gorham how it was that she should be "convinced to accept a plea of this nature."

"I'm a changed person," Gorham said. "I don't want to be the person I was anymore. I didn't care about anyone but myself, and now I can see what I've missed. I can't believe I was that stupid or that blind."

Recker said he believed his client was sincere.

"He's passed drug screens; he has a young family," Recker said. "He knows he'll never have an opportunity like this again."

LaViolette ordered that in addition to probation, Gorham must also remain employed, continue to attend substance abuse support group meetings and establish paternity for his three children.

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  • A well deserved break for a man who escaped the evil clutches of meth.

    -- Posted by Xgamer on Fri, Jan 30, 2009, at 5:18 AM
  • Good for him! Hopefully this will work out for him and his family.

    -- Posted by CastlePirate on Fri, Jan 30, 2009, at 5:41 AM
  • This success story is what we need more of to keep from overloading the prison system.Rehab is the answer-if it don't work then send them to prison.It costs a lot to house an offender. I have been told it averages the salary of 1 correctional officer a year (34,000) to house one offender. If more addicts went to rehab to have a better life and then be a working taxpayor the state benefits.

    -- Posted by peace2019 on Fri, Jan 30, 2009, at 6:20 AM
  • Are they playing "Deal or No Deal" at the courthouse these days? They are giving out probation for sex offenders, and light to no sentencing for drug offenders? I guess if I get a speeding ticket, I'll just have to demonstrate that I slowed down and drove the speed limit like I'm supposed to I'll get out of the ticket.

    -- Posted by JustinH on Fri, Jan 30, 2009, at 7:08 AM
  • This is great for the young man and his family. Sending the man to jail would have cause more harm then good. He would have lost his job and the snowball rolls down the hill from there.

    Can someone tell me way Mr. Gorham needs to establish paternity for his three children? What does LaViolette mean by that?

    -- Posted by mad-mom on Fri, Jan 30, 2009, at 7:59 AM
  • This is exactly what the courts should be doing! I agree with most of the other comments on this article (not the comment from JustinH). Help him get on with his changed life.

    -- Posted by not gullible on Fri, Jan 30, 2009, at 8:28 AM
  • what happened to Bookwalters "stop meth" plan...and to prosecute meth dealers to the fullest extent of the law?

    -- Posted by climberguy on Fri, Jan 30, 2009, at 8:32 AM
  • I want to know who paid off Bookwalter. Lee has had problems since he was in high school and Tom is undoubtly rolling over in his grave. Not not mention that Lee's half brother who has also been in a heap of trouble is now living down there.

    -- Posted by tigerlily on Fri, Jan 30, 2009, at 8:42 AM
  • Why can't this just be a wonderful success story without all the negative BS? People do change.My brother did and I consider him a hero.

    I applaud the Banner Graphic for finally printing a court story worth reading.

    -- Posted by citizenoftheworld on Fri, Jan 30, 2009, at 9:53 AM
  • I would have Thomas L. Gorham III, 28, of Centralia, Mo.,at least do follow up drug testing. He would need to prove to the court that he has changed. Maybe the court did order that and it was not printed that way.

    -- Posted by Focus on Fri, Jan 30, 2009, at 10:30 AM
  • Testing is done by the probation department.

    -- Posted by longtime resident on Fri, Jan 30, 2009, at 12:12 PM
  • People having been bailing him out since he was 16 and now Bookwalter? There has to be something more that people aren't reading. The Banner never prints the whole truth.

    -- Posted by tigerlily on Fri, Jan 30, 2009, at 3:38 PM
  • why does there have to be more to this than what is being told? Why be so judgemental?

    -- Posted by citizenoftheworld on Fri, Jan 30, 2009, at 4:42 PM
  • good luck to him! only time will tell.

    -- Posted by gottokno on Fri, Jan 30, 2009, at 8:10 PM
  • I am all for someone changing their life around and contributing positively to society - HOWEVER, there must always be consequences for their actions - that is the whole basis for the JUSTICE system!!!

    -- Posted by abcderg on Fri, Jan 30, 2009, at 10:17 PM
  • Gee, tigerlily, I certainly appreciate all the knowledge you seem to know about my family. I'm just very sorry that you apparently have nothing better in your life to do. It is a free country and while I do appreciate that, it is also very disrespectful and unnecessary to make a comment regarding my father (Tom). Please refrain from making any further comments regarding him. Because, actually he is finally able to be very proud of Lee and the positive progress he has made and continues to make everyday, and he is SMILING down from heaven on all of us!! Also there is ABSOLUTELY no need to bring anyone else into this conversation, such as our younger brother. May God Bless you anyway!!

    -- Posted by tnt22 on Sat, Jan 31, 2009, at 3:01 PM
  • Another loser gets a break...go figure!

    -- Posted by Michele1953 on Thu, Feb 5, 2009, at 11:20 AM
  • Why is Putnam County so full of smallminded people? People do happens everyday.

    -- Posted by citizenoftheworld on Fri, Feb 6, 2009, at 7:52 AM
  • The cost of housing a prisoner is actually around $50,000 a year. If the man is passing his drug tests, taking care of his family, and living a clean life, why not save the state the money? People change. Maybe it took looking at losing everything that meant anything to him to turn his life around. Goodluck to him.

    -- Posted by upstart on Fri, Feb 6, 2009, at 1:58 PM
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