Judge sends handicapped New Hanover man to state prison for molesting 2 girls

Peter Thomas, of New Hanover, leaves court in his motorized wheelchair for his trip to prison after he was convicted for molesting two children. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr./The Mercury)
Peter Thomas, of New Hanover, leaves court in his motorized wheelchair for his trip to prison after he was convicted for molesting two children. (Photo by Carl Hessler Jr./The Mercury)

NORRISTOWN — A 51-year-old New Hanover man’s next trip in his motorized wheelchair is to state prison for having indecent contact with two girls, ages 10 and 12, inside his handicap-accessible van.

Peter J. Thomas, of the 2400 block of North Charlotte Street, was sentenced in Montgomery County Court on Tuesday to two-to-six years in a state correctional facility after he pleaded guilty to felony charges of aggravated indecent assault of a person less than 16, indecent assault of a person less than 13 and corruption of minors in connection with incidents that occurred between April and August 2011.

“We have two, young female victims here. It is a most serious offense,” said Judge William R. Carpenter, who turned down a defense request for probation for Thomas. “He did cause harm and it was serious harm. These victims will suffer the impact of his crime for a very long time. There is no excuse for this criminal conduct.”

Defense lawyer George Newman, citing Thomas’ poor health and confinement to a wheelchair, argued for a probationary sentence or house arrest for Thomas.


“He’s in a very precarious physical condition,” said Newman, explaining Thomas suffers from post-polio syndrome and hypertension and has no prior criminal record. “He’s obviously very handicapped and it’s progressive. He cannot dress or shower without assistance. This is not your usual case.”

But Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Abidiwan-Lupo argued to the judge, “we can’t provide him a free pass simply because he’s in a wheelchair.”

“Irrespective of the fact that he’s in a wheelchair he still has to pay for the consequences of his actions. He made the choices, he made the decisions and he ultimately will have to pay the consequences,” Abidiwan-Lupo said. “State prison was absolutely appropriate considering the fact there were multiple victims and he molested them on multiple occasions over an extended period of time.”

Thomas, who was a friend of the parents or relatives of the two victims, apologized for his conduct.

“There are no words that can be said other than I take responsibility for my actions. If I could take it back I would. I’m very sorry for what I’ve done,” said Thomas, a former electrical engineer who held advanced degrees and who once worked for the State Department of Transportation.

The judge agreed with prosecutors and the Pennsylvania Sexual Offender Assessment Board, which evaluated Thomas, that Thomas meets criteria under the state’s Megan’s Law to be classified as a sexually violent predator. Officials found that Thomas has a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes him likely to engage in predatory sexual violent offenses.

The classification means Thomas must report his address to state police for the rest of his life and the community where he resides will be notified about his housing arrangements.

Newman argued that Thomas was not a predator.

In August 2011, police learned about “ongoing sexual assault incidents” that occurred when two girls, ages 10 and 12, were in Thomas’ company at various times between April and August, according to the arrest affidavit filed by New Hanover Police Officer Dekkar Dyas.

The 10-year-old girl said Thomas touched her “private parts” when they were in his handicap-accessible van and no one else was present, police alleged in the arrest affidavit. Additionally, the 10-year-old girl said it felt “horrible” and “wrong” when Thomas allegedly touched her inappropriately.

The 12-year-old girl said the assaults happened each time Thomas visited her house, according to the affidavit.

Follow Carl Hessler Jr. on Twitter @MontcoCourtNews