In January, Marshall Thomas, a 16-year-old student who had attended Matanzas High School until last May, was arrested on charges of stealing a pair of guns and making written threats to kill. The case drew wide attention at the time as Thomas was alleged to have planned to meet other juveniles at Holland Park to settle scores. Those charges are ongoing. But they were only part of the story, and they are not Thomas’s most serious problems.
The State Attorney’s Office on Feb. 13 charged Thomas as an adult on the grand theft and other charges. But it also charged him as an adult on a molestation charge involving a 15-year-old student at Matanzas High School that had not previously been publicly disclosed. The alleged molestation pre-dates the gun incident.
Thomas was in court Friday and again this afternoon, by zoom from his jail in Duval County, as his attorney and his father have been trying to convince the court either to lower his bond or to release him to his father’s custody. They are claiming that the Duval County jail is neglecting Thomas’s care, failing to medicate him as prescribed and failing to test his blood. According to Thomas himself, he has been unwell day after day. According to his father, he risks organ failure if his care is not maintained.
Circuit Judge Terence Perkins today ruled that he had insufficient evidence to release Thomas. Neither he nor Assistant State Attorney melissa Clark were willing to ely on Marshall Thomas’s account, nor on his father’s, to determine whether the jail was administering his care properly or not. The judge said he would schedule another hearing “almost immediately as circumstances change.” Meanwhile, Thomas is to remain at the juvenile jail.
“We need to get our arms around what’s really happening. I don’t want to speculate anymore on what needs to happen,” Perkins said, addressing Daniel Thomas (Marshall’s father), who was also part of the hearing, on zoom. “Unfortunately, Mr. Thomas, in all due respect, I understand your concern for your son, I don’t think you know any more than I do as to exactly what’s happening. And it’s time we got rid of the speculation and got down to what the actual facts are so that whatever we do, we know we’re doing something that’s reasonable and necessary.”
A Flagler County Sheriff’s release at the time of Thomas’s arrest on the gun charges in January had noted that Thomas had “not been an in-person student in the Flagler Schools system since the 2021-2022 school year,” but what attending virtual school.
What the release did not note was that Thomas was out on bail from a previous arrest in May, when he allegedly assaulted the girl at Matanzas High School, during class. He was initially arrested on July 30.
Thomas spent a few days in detention at a juvenile jail in Jacksonville on the sex-assault charge. Thomas’s attorney, Matt Maguire, petitioned the court through an emergency motion, asking for Thomas to be returned to his father and claiming he “does not pose a threat to the community and is not a flight risk.”
The arrest on the assault charge was Thomas’s first. He had no juvenile record until then. County Judge Melissa Distler granted the motion.
Then came the alleged gun thefts and the Holland Park incident. The incident could have been worse, but Daniel Thomas alerted authorities once he discovered the gun theft, and told them that he was concerned that Marshall may be involved in an altercation at Holland Park. Deputies were sent to the park to investigate, getting there ahead of Marshall. When Marshall saw them there, he opted not to go to the park. He was soon arrested, and again briefly jailed on the gun and written threats charges.
By then Thomas’s attorney had been working on a resolution of the molestation charge. The plea would have resulted in a probationary term–no jail, no prison.
That deal is off the table. Worse: the charges have now been upgraded.
Once the State Attorney decided to charge Thomas as an adult on all counts last month, he was back at the juvenile jail in Jacksonville, on $60,000 bond. (Thomas had been arrested on the gun charges along with Jaden Santiago, also a juvenile. Santiago’s case continues in juvenile court, where penalties on conviction are significantly scaled back.)
Thomas now faces two adult-level second-degree felonies and three adult-level third-degree felonies. Cumulatively, the five charges carry a maximum penalty of 45 years in prison. While it is still very unlikely that he would be sentenced to anywhere near that amount of time if he is convicted, the likelihood that he would avoid some prison time is slim.
The alleged incident at Matanzas Hight School resulted in a charge of lewd and lascivious molestation. It took place when both Thomas and the girl were 15, near the very end of the last school year, last May 27.
According to the girl’s account in Thomas’s arrest report on that charge, she and Thomas had held hands and kissed during third period, then sat in the back of a class during fourth period together. But he started making “increasingly physical advances towards her.” The lights had been turned off. A movie or a television program was being shown. When Thomas had again kissed the girl, she told him to stop. He touched her butt. She told him to stop. He went on to run his hand up her inner thigh and into her shorts, penetrating her with his finger and placing her hand on his groin. The girl “indicated she cried and had told Marshall to stop repeatedly during these incidents, as well as attempted to stop him by trying to move his hand away.”
The report states she was finally able to get away from Marshall with a friend’s help in the classroom, who confronted Marshall during lunch. At the end of the day, Marshall apologized to the girl. The girl provided similar accounts during a Child Protective Team interview at the State Attorney’s Office more than 10 days later. After that interview, the State Attorney’s Office set up a controlled exchange on SnapChat between the girl and Marshall, who sent two selfies and, according to the report, admitted to touching the girl despite her pleas to stop.
Twenty days later, Marshall Thomas spoke with detectives, initially minimizing the incident or describing it as consensual, before eventually admitting the penetrating her without consent, according to the report.
One of the books three women are seeking to ban from Flagler County school libraries, The Nowhere Girls, by Amy Reed, describes almost identically the sort of culture that enables high school boys to take liberties with girls up to and including manipulation, assault, date rape and other forms of sexual aggression often framed, in the boys’ mind, as consensual. The book is also critical of an institutional and legal system that ignores, excuses, or only lightly punishes boys who assault girls, though it also explores the often murky nature of teen sexual encounters and the gray areas between consent and aggression. Committees have yet to decide whether to keep or ban the book.
Notably, and likely because of his Marshall Thomas’s age, the State Attorney’s Office and the court were prepared to resolve the case with minimal consequences as long as it had been limited to the sexual assault. That changed only with the January gun and threat charges.
Those charges were not in play Friday and today in court, the focus being on the nature of Thomas’s detention, and whether he should be let out. The motion was asking either for a lower bond or for Thomas to be under house arrest at his father’s house, presumably the same house where Thomas allegedly stole the guns.
Maguire said the medication Thomas is due in jail is not being dispensed as regularly as prescribed, causing side effects such as vomiting and headaches. Daniel Thomas said his son needed to have his blood draw. That was done almost a week ago, but the results have not been disclosed to Thomas’s father. “We don’t need to call your father, we know what we’re doing,” Daniel Thomas said his son was told by the medical staff at the jail.
“Every morning I wake up I don’t feel good, headache is like pounding, throbbing, I’m barely able to sleep,” Marshall Thomas said, describing vomiting and losing fluids for the past two nights.
Clark, the prosecutor, was not convinced. Based on an email transmitted by way of the local jail director and passed on to the court, “it seems like they are doing what they are supposed to be doing for his medical well-being,” Clark said. “He needs to remain where he is.” Thomas also has a pending endocrinology appointment. “While I appreciate what the young man is telling us, at the end of the day, I would much rather hear from the people that are actually administering the medicine to know what exactly is happening, rather than what the young man is telling us.”
That’s what the judge asked, putting the burden of getting that information in the hands of Thomas’s attorney–Maguire.
Perkins said he did not want to make a decision based on speculation or in the absence of documentation. “We need to sketch in some of these details here,” the judge said. “I don’t want to ignore any problems, but there’s no way you can tease that out of this information. The email I’m getting is completely inconsistent with what I’m hearing being reported with regard to the medication.”
don miller says
quite a school they have going on there. stronger case for home schooling and vouchers every day. when my kids were home schooled I was asked by someone trying to pick an argument how they would know how to handle bad people if they weren’t familiar with those types, if they didn’t learn by being with them? I asked them ” what do you do”? They looked stunned when I said ” I tell my kids to stay away from them, isn’t that what you do with bad adults?” Ain’t much common sense around these days.
Sounds like Dad has less than no clue.
Where was the teacher when the alleged sexual assault was going on in a classroom full of people?
not happy pirate parnent says
exactly! lot of bad things going on at matanzas and no one seems to care….the drugs, the violence, the absent teachers, and the teachers who are just present….no it’s not all of them, but big problems at this school, and it’s never reported…
Mike Crichton says
“The lights had been turned off. A movie or a television program was being shown. “
don miller says
quite a school they have there. more reasons for home school and vouchers. public schools are dangerous.
Not getting very good National press out of FPC IMO. It’s looking like one bad day after another in the Press.Rather disturbing to say the least
Its matanzas….jeez reading is hard
For one thing is this school a magnet for troubled students, how can this school have such a history of tragic events?
Next isn’t the teacher in control when the lights go out for movies. Or why are you harboring this behavior (lights out) when you know there are problem students in the crowd?
How can the judge even consider allowing this child out to a house he previously stole guns from, or consider a release when there has been evidence he may try to settle a score with guns.
There is something on every turn here.
What’s wrongvwith this school?
…claiming he “does not pose a threat to the community”. Are you serious? This kid is the definition of “threat to the community”.
Marshall Thomas was caught speeding on the road to perdition.
Deborah Coffey says
It seems every time I read about one of these arrests, the perpetrator has been arrested before and is out running around on bail or probation! We need all new judges.
Some of you are judging MHS over a few students. There are over 1500 kids in attendance and they are good. None of us knows what happened with the sexual assault. You can’t blame the teacher. You shouldn’t judge. The truth will come out at his trial.
Libbys reap what they sew.
Bill nonthinking Republicans are reaping too. The insurrection of 2020. They are still going to prison. By the way Florida is a sinking Republican state.