One Man's Case Shows Why the Looting Isn't Going To Stop Any Time Soon

Serial looter committed serious crimes, never spent a day in prison

Arlington County commonwealth's attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti (D.) and Fairfax County commonwealth's attorney Steve Descano
June 1, 2022

Two George Soros-backed prosecutors in suburban Washington, D.C., bounced a serial looter who committed multiple grand larcenies and assaulted a cop between their offices for years without a felony conviction.

Fairfax County commonwealth's attorney Steve Descano (D.) and Arlington County commonwealth's attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti (D.) since 2020 dismissed or declined to prosecute a 25-year-old Maryland resident for nearly a dozen charges related to larceny. The looting incidents amounted to thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise and include felony offenses, including two grand larcenies and one assault on a police officer, making the offender eligible for years behind bars. The prosecutors found the looter guilty of just a few misdemeanors. No verdict levied more than a few hundred dollars in fines, and he served no time in prison.

The out-of-state offender, Ronald Thomas, spent virtually no time in jail after his arrests thanks to bail reform policies instituted by Descano and Dehghani-Tafti. At least five times he was charged for committing crimes in one jurisdiction while on pretrial release in another. He was twice charged for committing larcenies within a day of having similar larceny charges dropped—with one of those incidents happening in the same county.

The case exemplifies the degree to which lightened sentencing can embolden repeat offenders. Studies have shown that releasing defendants before their trial increases crime. A few years after Cook County, Ill., instituted bail reform, a 2020 study by the University of Utah found a 45 percent increase in the number of released defendants who were charged with committing new crimes and a 33 percent bump in released defendants charged with violent crimes.

"When you lower the likelihood of pretrial detention through bail reform, you increase the number of pretrial defendants who are going to be out on the street," Rafael Mangual, a senior fellow and head of research for policing and public safety at the Manhattan Institute, told the Washington Free Beacon. "There's going to be an increase in crime."

Those subsequent crimes also tend to be more violent. "You always hear about the nonviolent drug offender or the nonviolent property crime," Mangual said. "The reality is that there's actually a lot of overlap between who commits violent offenses and who commits lower-level misdemeanors."

Thomas is no exception. In between when his Virginia cases were opened and dropped, he was charged with theft, robbery, and assault in neighboring Maryland.

Democratic megadonor George Soros donated more than half-a-million dollars to Descano's and Dehghani-Tafti's 2019 campaigns, helping them oust veteran prosecutors who had served a combined 60 years in their counties. Both ran on a progressive criminal justice platform, promising to end cash bail in most cases and reduce incarceration. They've kept those promises and pointed to a general crime decrease as proof of their platform's success. Their critics have countered that fewer convictions can mask the true crime rate.

"You can't claim crime has decreased when you've also bragged about not prosecuting over 20 types of crimes," Virginia attorney general Jason Miyares (R.) told the Washington Free Beacon. "The crime hasn't gone away—only the prosecution."

Miyares also told the Free Beacon the Virginia prosecutors' pattern of light prosecution will lead to more victims.

"Just because a crime is 'nonviolent' does not mean there was no victim or that no innocent life has been affected," Miyares said. "These far-left prosecutors repeatedly dropped charges against a serial larcenist and allowed him to commit more crimes and victimize more Virginians because they prioritize ideology instead of public safety."

Descano and Dehghani-Tafti did not respond to a request for comment.

In the past few years, states such as New York and New Jersey have passed laws allowing for pretrial release in most cases. Cities including Philadelphia and San Francisco have followed suit. San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin (D.) abolished cash bail in 2020 and has opposed many felony convictions, including for drug-dealing charges, robberies, and larceny. The liberal prosecutor is now facing a recall effort amid a spike in homicides, violent shootings, overdoses, and retail theft.

Thomas carried out his larceny spree as attitudes toward looting shifted since the summer of 2020. Politicians, activists, and writers on the left defended the practice during riots around race that summer in America's cities. In one notable example, NPR interviewed the writer Vicky Osterweil, whose 2019 book In Defense of Looting argued the practice was a "joyous and liberatory" response to the injustices of a "cisheteropatriarchal racial capitalist society." Reports showed many looters came from out of state to participate and often escaped without charges—an outcome underwritten by progressive bail laws and lightened sentencing guidelines.

Virginia changed its law for larceny sentencing in July 2020 under former Democratic governor Ralph Northam, doubling the felony threshold from $500 to $1,000. Liberal criminal justice reform groups such as Justice Forward Virginia and the Virginia ACLU had long advocated for the move. Justice Forward in 2021 also backed ending third-strike felonies for petit larceny, noting the "disparate racial and economic impacts that such legislation creates among people of color and the poor."

Even given the raised sentencing threshold in Virginia, one of the grand larcenies Thomas allegedly committed in Fairfax totaled $4,000—more than four times the new felony threshold. Former members of the Fairfax County commonwealth's attorneys' office who spoke with the Free Beacon said choosing not to prosecute felony grand larcenies is rare.

Arlington County has yet to publish its 2021 annual crime report. In 2020, property destruction, auto theft, robbery, and assault all rose in the county. Fairfax County in 2021 saw an uptick in violent crimes, including a 40 percent increase in homicide.

The Free Beacon reported in March how Descano's office in 2021 dropped felony charges on a man arrested for attempting to abduct and defile a hotel housekeeper. One year later, the man was arrested again after he allegedly killed two homeless men and wounded three others during a nine-day shooting spree in D.C. and New York City.

Those who oppose Descano, Dehghani-Tafti, and Loudoun County commonwealth's attorney Buta Biberaj, another Soros-backed prosecutor, launched efforts to recall the trio in 2022. The groups, Stand Up Virginia and Virginians for Safe Communities, say they are motivated by the dangers liberal prosecutors pose to public safety.

"Yet another career criminal victimizes the community with total impunity because a radical prosecutor-activist handed him a 'get out of jail free' card," said Virginians for Safe Communities president Sean Kennedy. "This case is not the exception any longer, it's the rule."

Thomas was extradited to Montgomery County, Md., on May 24, according to the Fairfax County Detention Center. He is set to stand trial in June on charges of second-degree assault, theft, and robbery, as well as in July on charges of theft valued at more than $1,500. He was charged in Prince George's County, Md., in 2020 for theft, only to have those charges dropped a year later.