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AUSTIN EDITION -- Bail set in sexual misconduct case

By Amy Olson

aolson@postbulletin.com

Bail has been set at $50,000 for a 52-year-old Austin man who is charged with four counts of criminal sexual conduct for allegedly having intercourse with a 15-year-old girl in May.

George G. Thomas, outreach coordinator at the Welcome Center in Austin, was arrested Thursday and appeared in Mower District Court on Monday.

According to the complaint, the 15-year-old victim met Thomas through a cultural diversity project he was leading. She told investigators she was the only person to show up the second time she went to class. The two went to a residence, where Thomas allegedly persuaded her to have sex with him.

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Mower County Attorney Patrick Oman asked District Judge Fred Wellmann to set bail at $50,000 without conditions or $25,000 with conditions. He asked Wellmann to consider holding Thomas in jail until authorities could clear up a matter of a Rochester man who has allegedly used Thomas' identity in the past.

Peter Plunkett, Thomas's attorney, said the bail study conducted by the Mower County Corrections staff contained errors. Plunkett said Thomas has lived in Austin for five years, working for the county's Highway Department and Apollo convenience store before taking the job as outreach coordinator at the Welcome Center, where he has worked for 15 months.

Thomas has helped law enforcement officials with investigations by providing information and has "been a good citizen," Plunkett said. "He has roots here. He is not a flight risk."

Plunkett asked Wellmann to consider releasing Thomas on his own recognizance and said Thomas intends to "vehemently defend himself in the matter."

"He is innocent," Plunkett said.

Thomas told Wellmann he has tried to live a reputable life in Austin and recognizes the severity of the accusations. He said he couldn't post high bail but would adhere to the court's conditions if released.

Thomas shook his head as Wellmann set the bail, but the judge said that could be posted in the form of a bond or personal surety.

On Monday, Welcome Center Inc. Executive Director Liliana Sylvestre said Thomas is on unpaid administrative leave.

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Thomas's next court hearing is scheduled for April 25, but Wellmann said he would try to schedule an evidentiary hearing within a month.

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