Guilty plea fizzles in East Coast Rapist case

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Local,Virginia,Crime,Naomi Jagoda

The man accused of being the East Coast Rapist did not enter a guilty plea in court on Tuesday as anticipated.

Aaron H. Thomas, 41, had signed a plea agreement and was expected to accept responsibility for abducting three teenage girls and raping two of them in Prince William County on Halloween 2009.

But on Tuesday morning, Thomas told a Prince William County Circuit Court judge, according to WUSA: "I don't know which is right and which is wrong. I don't know what I'm doing."

Thomas is suspected in more than a dozen attacks that occurred from 1997 to 2009 in Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

He was arrested in March 2011 in Connecticut after a tipster from Prince George's County called Crime Solvers. Authorities used a discarded cigarette to obtain Thomas' DNA, which they said matched DNA found at the crime scenes.

In the Halloween 2009 attack, Thomas allegedly accosted three girls who had been trick-or-treating that night. The victims testified at an earlier hearing that their attacker took them to a wooded area in Dale City and raped two of them while the third girl texted for help.

Thomas was indicted in April on two counts of rape, three counts of abduction with intent to defile and three counts of using a firearm during a felony. In exchange for pleading guilty, prosecutors would have dropped the firearms charges.

Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert said he was hoping Thomas would plead guilty so the victims would not have to testify during a trial.

"It doesn't surprise me," Ebert said of Thomas' decision, noting that the defendant has been inconsistent in his positions throughout proceedings in the case.

In the spring, Thomas' lawyer wrote in a court filing that his client planned to present an insanity defense at trial. But the defense later gave notice that they would not raise such a defense, Ebert said.

The Prince William County case against Thomas is set for trial in January. Ebert said Thomas faces up to five life sentences plus 12 years in prison if convicted.

Thomas also remains scheduled for a plea hearing on Nov. 30 in Loudoun County for another rape case.

njagoda@washingtonexaminer.com

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