Hamblen man faces return to federal prison

Hamblen County resident Wendell Roger Thomas, who was sentenced to 70 months in federal prison in 2012 for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, is likely facing a second return to federal prison for multiple violations of post-release rules that began accumulating 19 days after he was last released, according to court documents.

Thomas, 38, was arrested on Tuesday and was scheduled to make his initial appearance in federal court this afternoon. The maximum sentence the defendant faces is 11 months and 29 days, according to an arrest petition.

Since Thomas was released from prison on June 1, he has missed five court-ordered drug screens for no justifiable reason and tested positive for methamphetamine on two occasions. Citing coronavirus concerns, he failed to show for three other drug screens. He tested negative after missing those drug tests, according to the arrest petition.

Another blemish on his post-release record is that on Aug. 25 Detective Joe Reff with the Jefferson City Police Department contacted Thomas’ federal probation officer and reported he believed Thomas was selling crystal meth. Thomas denied selling drugs, but admitted he was with a convicted felon named Chris Brown, which is a separate violation of court-imposed rules.

In 2019, Thomas was given another year and a day in federal prison after he tested positive for marijuana five times.

Thomas was convicted in 2009 for the armed robbery of the West Side Market on Jarnagin Avenue. His federal court conviction stemmed from what police described as an aborted armed home-invasion robbery of a reputed LSD dealer. A search of the area turned up a .38-caliber handgun, which was later linked to Thomas.

His accomplice in the armed robbery was Sergio Baca. When authorities searched Baca’s home in 2005, they found 40 pounds of marijuana, according to court records.

In an unrelated revocation matter, accused Cocke County crystal-meth dealer Derek Hommel, who was allowed to remain free after he was indicted for conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams, violated the terms of his pretrial release when he admitted to using meth multiple times, according to court documents.

Instead of jail, however, Hommel will be allowed to enter an inpatient substance-abuse program, a federal judge ruled Thursday.