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Hardin Co. Superintendent Found Guilty of Lesser Charge

By Emily Cassulo
By ecassulo@wbbjtv.com

A verdict has been reached in the trial of John Thomas, Hardin County's Director of Schools.

Thomas was indicted in March for carrying his personal handgun in a belt holster onto the campus of Hardin County Middle School last fall. On Tuesday, he was found guilty, but not of his original charge.

The controversy surrounding this case has been going on for months now, and one thing all parties could agree on is that they are glad the trial is over.

After about an hour-and-a-half of deliberation, the jury found Thomas guilty of having a firearm on a school campus without intending to use it.

"I know this is his first time, first conviction, and I know juries as well as courts are prone to give that little bit of leeway there for a first offense," Savannah resident Jerry Fowler said.

"The law's intent is that nobody should carry a weapon on school property, including the school superintendent, and this verdict is an indication that the jury agrees," said Special Prosecutor Mike Bottoms.

Parties on both sides told 7 Eyewitness News they are pleased with the verdict.

"What he was charged with would've been a felony, which had significant ramifications to his future and we believe that's not what the proof would show, and it did not," said Defense Attorney Curt Hopper.

Thomas was convicted of a lesser charge - a misdemeanor. The jury assessed a $50 fine and up to six months probation.

Thomas said he is very relieved the trial is over.

"As you know, the Director of Schools is a very demanding business, and for awhile I've had to divide a mind between the trial and running the school system, and so now that the trial is over, I can get back to running Hardin County schools," Thomas said.

Thomas said the school district has a lot to do this summer.

He will be back to work Wednesday.

Thomas' sentencing hearing will be July 10 at 9 a.m. At that time, the judge will decide if Thomas will serve any jail time.