The Supreme Court of Georgia on Monday formally terminated the law license of attorney Richard S. Thompson, a former U.S. attorney of the Southern District of Georgia, because he is serving three years in prison for aggravated stalking.
The high court called Thompson’s voluntary surrender of his law license “tantamount to disbarment.” Thompson’s loss of his law license stems from two felony convictions in January and two consecutive 10-year sentences that include three years in custody followed by 17 years on probation. As a condition of the sentences, Thompson will be banished from the Brunswick Circuit, where his ex-girlfriend lives and that includes Thompson’s hometown of Vidalia.
Although Thompson—who is currently in custody in Long State Prison in Ludowici—was sentenced in February, he becomes eligible for parole in two months, said a spokesman for the state Board of Pardons and Paroles. Thompson has been in custody since last July and, in sentencing him, Scarlett gave him credit for time served prior to Thompson’s trial.
Pardons and Paroles spokesman Steve Hayes said that Thompson becomes eligible for parole on July 28 because he will have served a third of his prison sentence, which officially ends July 27, 2021. But Hayes said that board parole decisions are governed, in part, by clemency guidelines. Under those guidelines, aggravated stalking is a Level 8—the highest crime severity level and carries a recommendation that a defendant serve 65-90% of his sentence before being paroled.
Hayes said the board has discretion to follow the guideline recommendation, require more time up until Thompson’s court-ordered incarceration is complete, reduce time or deny parole. A majority decision of the five members is required, he said.
Meanwhile, the license surrender also effectively ends what began 37 years ago as a promising legal career during which Thompson—who has practiced law in Vidalia, Savannah and St. Simons Island—twice ran for statewide office, co-managed the successful 2000 campaign of former Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Georgia, then was appointed by former President George W. Bush to be the U.S. attorney in Savannah.
Thompson served as the Southern District’s chief federal prosecutor from 2001-2004. In 2004, he resigned under an ethics cloud after the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility determined he abused his authority to help a Republican ally in his state election campaign.
In 2009, then-Gov. Sonny Perdue—now U.S. secretary of agriculture—appointed Thompson to the State Board of Workers’ Compensation, which Thompson chaired before stepping down in 2013.
Thompson’s decision to surrender his bar license follows his arrest in 2017 and a second arrest last summer after a police chase that ended when Thompson put a gun to his head and threatened to kill himself. At the time, law enforcement authorities were searching for Thompson after a judge revoked his bond on a 2017 felony stalking charge for continuing to stalk his former girlfriend. A deputy discovered several suicide letters in Thompson’s car after Thompson surrendered.
Thompson was convicted Jan. 31 on two counts of aggravated stalking following a daylong bench trial before Brunswick Circuit Superior Court Judge Stephen Scarlett. On Feb. 15, Scarlett handed down two consecutive 10-year sentences. The judge ordered Thompson to serve three years in prison and the remaining 17 years on probation.
Scarlett also set special conditions of probation that put permanent protective orders in place barring Thompson from contacting his former girlfriend, her husband, their attorney—Donna Crossland of St. Simons Island firm Taylor, Odachowski, Schmidt & Crossland—or any members of their families.
Thompson was also ordered to undergo mental health counseling for the second time. As a condition of his bond in 2017, Thompson agreed to report to a private psychiatric facility in Florida and complete a state-sponsored, 24-week family violence intervention program and ordered to have no further contact with his ex-girlfriend or her lawyer.
Thompson was also banished from the Brunswick Judicial Circuit for the 17 years he will be on probation.
Scarlett also granted Thompson first offender status. In Georgia if a defendant is designated a first offender, once he completes his sentence, his conviction will be expunged and all records pertaining to the arrest and conviction sealed.
Thompson’s defense counsel, Brunswick attorney Robert Crowe, was not in the office and couldn’t be reached for comment.