The jury in the Barton County District Court trial of Freddie Alec Thomas returned Thursday with a verdict of guilty of voluntary manslaughter.
Thomas, now 55 years old, was charged with first-degree murder after fatally shooting Jeremy Alan Saldana outside of a Great Bend residence on Sept. 11, 2015. When the jurors received instructions from District Judge Carey Hipp on Wednesday morning after listening to a week of testimony, they were given the options of convicting him of the original first-degree murder charge or of one of two lesser offenses: second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter. They also had the option to find him not guilty by reason of self-defense.
After receiving instructions, the jury heard closing statements by defense attorney Donald Anderson II and by Barton County Attorney Levi Morris. Jurors worked past 5 p.m. on Wednesday and then returned Thursday morning to complete their deliberations. They reached a verdict shortly before 1 p.m.
Bond set at $50,000
A date for sentencing was not set Thursday. Under Kansas sentencing guidelines, the standard sentence for voluntary manslaughter, a level 3 felony, is 59 months in prison. However, a standard pre-sentencing investigation must now be done.
Thomas was placed in the custody of the Barton County Jail unless he posts a $50,000 cash or surety bond, surrenders his passports and arranges for electronic monitoring and other supervision such as staying in contact with his attorney. Anderson said Thomas holds a passport from his native country, Grenada, and he is also an American citizen with a U.S. passport. The attorneys weren’t sure whether Grenada has an extradition treaty with the USA and Morris said he poses a flight risk because he can expect to go to prison.
Anderson argued for his client’s release until sentencing, noting that Thomas has made every court appearance.
“There’s nothing about Mr. Thomas that would suggest his risk of flight has increase,” Anderson said.
When Thomas was first arrested, he lived in Lincoln County and worked at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility. He posted a $100,000 surety bond and continued to live in Lincoln County with electronic monitoring. Posting a $100,00 surety bond through a bond company cost him $10,000, and Anderson said he could not afford to post bond again in any amount, even $1,000.
The original bond conditions ended in 2016 when Barton County District Judge Ron Svaty dismissed the case, saying Thomas was immune to prosecution because he acted in self-defense. The State appealed that ruling, which was overturned, and the case was sent back to Barton County District Court, resulting in the eventual jury trial.
Morris argued that knowing he can expect to go to prison is enough to create a flight risk, and Judge Hipp agreed that some form of accountability to the court is warranted. She did not impose the usual condition that Thomas not be allowed to leave the state, however. If he is released on bond, he can return to New York prior to sentencing.