DURHAM — Haydn “Fats” Thomas, a felon with ties to North Carolina basketball player P.J. Hairston, has drawn significant public attention since that connection became public.
Now Thomas has the attention of the U.S. Attorney.
Thomas, facing felony drug and gun charges unrelated to his involvement with Hairston, was represented Tuesday in court by his lawyer, Randy Griffin. The assistant district attorney announced that the state has offered Thomas a plea and that the U.S. Attorney, Ripley Rand, has expressed an interest in the case. Judge Jim Hardin agreed to keep the case in the same setting and set the next court appearance for Aug. 19.
When asked why the U.S. attorney was interested in Thomas, Griffin said, “I don’t know, maybe the State fans called him.”
The PackPride message board first reported the connection between Hairston and Thomas. Hairston, 20, was arrested June 5 in a GMC Yukon rented by Thomas and is facing two misdemeanor charges for driving without a license and marijuana possession. Hairston told Durham police he received the car from Thomas. Two passengers, Miykael Faulcon, 20, and Carlos Sanford, 23, also were charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession. Durham police also found a 9mm handgun and additional marijuana at the scene but have said they don’t intend to press additional charges against Hairston.
Hairston also received a May 13 speeding ticket in a 2012 Chevrolet Camaro rented by Catinia Farrington, who co-owns a Durham house with Thomas.
Griffin is worried the attention from Thomas’ connection to Hairston could impact his ability to get a fair trail on the unrelated felony charges.
“I’m hoping the press doesn’t get involved in this case so he can get a fair outcome like everybody else would and not get punished because people have tied him in with Carolina basketball,” Griffin said. “Especially with this area, as big as the sports are around here, you wouldn’t want him to get punished more severely because he’s tied into P.J. and the incident.
“So now you have to worry if the public will express an opinion and feel a certain way about him and what should happen on his case, whereas if it was just someone that the public didn’t know, they might be looking at probation or whatever they may be looking at. The D.A. may say, ’well, we should lock him up because we’ve got a lot of people looking at it, and if I don’t prosecute it to the fullest, the public is going to be looking at what the outcome of the case will be.’ It’s a concern, yeah.”
Thomas faces three felony charges stemming from a December arrest: possession and intent to sell a controlled substance (12 grams of marijuana), maintaining a dwelling used for keeping or selling a controlled substance and possession of a firearm by a felon. His felony conviction came in 2006 in a guilty plea for creating counterfeit checks and using a stolen MasterCard.
Griffin declined to specify the specifics of the state’s plea deal and said he and his client would wait to see what the U.S. attorney said about the case. Griffin also said he doesn’t know if Thomas has been contacted by the NCAA about the rental cars and doesn’t know anything about his connections to Hairston.
Thomas did not return a call for comment.
Rand did his undergrad and law school work at UNC. He is the co-author of a children’s book titled, “I want to go to UNC!: An Illustration celebration of a Carolina Education.”
Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley