Published November 13, 2012
MANASSAS, Va. – A plea deal for a Connecticut man accused of a series of rapes along the East Coast fell through Tuesday after the defendant told a judge he wasn't sure he knew what he was doing.
A plea hearing had been scheduled in Prince William County for Aaron Thomas, who is charged with abducting three teenage trick-or-treaters in 2009 in Virginia and raping two of them. But the deal was called off when Thomas, of New Haven, Conn., balked at the deal in open court.
At the outset of the hearing, Thomas told the judge in a barely audible voice that he wasn't sure what was right and what was wrong.
"I'm not sure I know what I'm doing," Thomas said.
The assaults were the last of 17 that authorities attributed to Thomas, who was linked through DNA to assaults and rapes on women as far back as 1997 in Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Had Thomas pleaded guilty, it would have been the first time he had been convicted for any of those assaults.
A similar plea hearing is scheduled for Nov. 30 in Loudoun County, where Thomas is accused of raping a Leesburg woman in 2001. Loudoun County Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman said that hearing is still scheduled, but it "remains to be seen" if he will actually enter a plea.
Thomas was arrested in Connecticut in March 2011. At a preliminary hearing, police testified that Thomas confessed shortly after he was arrested.
His lawyers initially pursued an insanity defense. They said in court motions that he spent time at a psychiatric facility in his youth, and that he complained of an alternate personality named Erwin. He also behaved erratically in jail, cutting himself and refusing to talk to lawyers.
But a court-appointed evaluator concluded that Thomas was faking his symptoms, and the defense lawyers dropped plans for an insanity defense shortly before scheduling Tuesday's hearing.
Thomas' lawyers declined comment to reporters after the hearing.
Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert said Thomas had signed a plea agreement admitting guilt in two rapes and three abductions in the Halloween attacks. Ebert had agreed to drop three lesser firearms charges as part of the deal. Thomas would have faced up to life in prison under the deal's terms, with a judge determining the ultimate sentence.
Ebert said after the hearing that he had hoped the plea deal would go forward to spare the victims from testifying at trial, but he's prepared to put on the case regardless.
In court, Thomas looked more alert than at previous hearings but kept his head down and his shoulders hunched forward.
Ebert said he was not surprised Thomas balked at the plea due to his odd behavior.
"He's an unusual character," Ebert said.