U.S. District Court

Habitual gun felon likely to avoid jail for Tenderloin armed robbery

A habitual gun felon who robbed and pistol-whipped a rival drug dealer in the Tenderloin in 2020, had his sentencing deferred for a further six months this morning by a judge who congratulated him on his progress out of custody.

Milton Thomas, 41, had previously pleaded guilty to one count of being a felon in possession of ammunition stemming from the incident.

A witness told police that they saw the attack on Ellis Street between Jones and Leavenworth. When SFPD officers subsequently tried to apprehend Thomas, they saw him reach for his waistband and dart behind a parked truck. They then heard something being dropped.

Refusing to obey police commands to get on the ground, Thomas instead walked away from the vehicle. Officers, fearing he may still be armed, drew their weapons and detained him after a scuffle.

A pistol equipped with an extended magazine was found under the truck. It was loaded with 27 .40 caliber rounds plus one in the chamber.

DNA testing later demonstrated that the firearm had been handled by Thomas. His DNA was left on the weapon even though, prosecutors said, he had been wearing rubber gloves in an unsuccessful attempt not to leave trace evidence on it.

The charge of ‘being felon in possession of ammunition’ is preferred by federal prosecutors when they cannot conclusively determine whether the firearm itself has been manufactured outside of California, but the ammunition unquestionably was. The weapon here was a privately-manufactured ‘ghost gun’.

Since first appearing in federal court in 2020 Thomas has been largely free after U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero ordered his release on an unsecured $25,000 bond.

He was detained again in early 2022 after SFPD suspected him of pointing a gun at a liquor store patron and threatening to shoot him at Christmastime 2021. Defense attorneys called police identification of Thomas “unreliable” and U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer subsequently released him.

Body worn camera footage of man police suspected was Milton Thomas

In a sentencing memorandum to the court, submitted shortly after Thomas’ guilty plea last year, prosecutors say he “appears to have spent his entire adult life engaged in criminal activity”.

He was convicted of felony firearms possession in 2003 and received a 60 month sentence. On release, court documents show, he broke the terms of his supervised release twice and was sentenced to a further 14 months incarceration.

In 2012 he was convicted of two further firearms-related charges. After racking up four more arrests for other offenses, his probation was revoked and he was sentenced to three more years in prison.

Prosecutors also drew the court’s attention to felony convictions for selling cocaine in 1999 and 2000.

They asked the court to impose a 46 month sentence.

Describing Thomas’ actions as “an isolated transgression” and “an uncharacteristic deviation” defense attorney Gabriela Bischof told the court in her sentencing memorandum that, after the arrest, her client had immediately returned to work, complied with state and federal pre-trial supervision and stayed out of trouble.

In the short hearing today U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer told Thomas’ he was “doing pretty well” out of custody and told him to appear again on December 13 at 10:00am

“Just do well okay,” he concluded.

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