Man guilty of torturing area woman gets 20 years to life
By Raymond Drumsta
ITHACA — Red-eyed but resolute with an apparent clarity of purpose, the victim of James E. “Jimbo” Thommen Jr. told the court, in excruciating detail, about the torture, sexual assaults and physical assaults Thommen committed against her.
“You must really feel like a real man, knowing that you beat up a woman,” she said calmly, looking at Thommen. “I guess this time, you beat the wrong one.”
Thommen, 37, was sentenced to 20 years to life Monday for felony charges of predatory sexual assault, second-degree assault and first-degree criminal sexual act, which he had pleaded guilty to in early August. The sentences are to be served concurrently.
The three charges are among the nearly two-dozen offenses — including first-degree kidnapping, assault, sexual assault, menacing, coercion and stalking — that Thommen was indicted on.
During a three-day ordeal that began at his residence on March 19, Thommen punched, kicked, bit and sodomized the victim, the Tompkins County Sheriff's Office said. He also burned her with a hot electric hair iron and choked her with a belt.
While choking her with the belt, Thommen spit on the woman and forced her to perform a sexual act, Sheriff's investigators said. On March 21, Thommen forced the woman to drive to Calvary Cemetery on Floral Avenue in the Town of Ithaca and perform a sexual act.
He also slapped and punched her, threatened to kill himself, threatened to kill her with a knife, held the knife to the woman's neck, and cut her face and hand, sheriff's investigators said. After they left the cemetery, Thommen and the woman made several stops — including at Shortstop Deli in Ithaca at about 10 p.m., where the woman whispered to an employee to call police and then locked herself inside the restroom.
The Ithaca Police Department detained Thommen and subsequently turned the investigation over to the Sheriff's Office due to the jurisdiction of the offenses. The woman was treated at Cayuga Medical Center for burns, bites, bruising and broken ribs.
At Thommen's sentencing in Tompkins County Court, Assistant District Attorney Linda Gafford reiterated the prosecution's sentencing recommendation of 25 years to life and added greater detail to the case. Calling it a “three-day rampage” and “tortuous attack,” Gafford said Thommen actually lifted the victim off the floor as he choked her with the belt, coming “perilously close” to killing the her.
“The victim thought she was dying and could not breathe,” Gafford said, adding that he broke the hair iron over her head and burned her with it.
“At times he would smile and appear to be amused at her pain and terror,” she said. The victim's face was disfigured, bruised and burned, she added, and Thommen told her that it was her fault that her face looked that way.
While at the residence, Thommen took the victim's keys and cell phone, disconnected the answering machine, confined her to the bedroom and denied her water, Gafford said.
Thommen's assaults continued at the cemetery, where he pummeled the woman with his fists and bit her all over her body, Gafford said. All the bites left scars, she added, and one broke the skin and drew blood, she added.
The bites and punches are among 67 separate injuries that hospitalized the woman until March 24, Gafford said.
“The defendant systematically and sadistically tortured this victim,” Gafford said, adding that Thommen showed no remorse after his arrest, tried to blame the victim and told the probation officer that the only reason he pleaded guilty was because he was being “railroaded” by the indictment.
Alluding to Thommen's past convictions, which include second-degree menacing in 2006, attempted second-degree assault in 2002 and first-degree reckless endangerment in 1992, Gafford said that Thommen is extremely jealous, possessive and has abused other women in similar ways.
When Gafford finished, the victim marched to the podium, adjusted the microphone, and read from three pages of single-spaced notes — neatly handwritten on both sides of the pages. Cleary emotional, the victim nonetheless showed steady control as she told the court — and Thommen, sitting handcuffed in a brown suit, green tie and sneakers less than two yards from her — what Thommen had put her through,
“I've suffered in so many different ways because of what you did to me,” she said. She described losing a job and health insurance and waking up in a cold sweat from nightmares from the ordeal.
She and her son, who also suffered spitting and degradation from Thommen, are in therapy, she said.
“I have your nasty teeth marks scarred into my body,” she said.
Occasionally turning to look at Thommen, the woman called him a “self-hating coward.” The sick thing, she said, her tone rising in outraged amazement, is that Thommen doesn't feel any remorse.
“You find your morbid, disgusting acts justified,” she said.
There was a time, she said, that she thought Thommen cared for her.
“I see now that I was just one of your many victims,” she said. “I've never had anyone make me feel as low as you did. But that's how you wanted me to feel.”
Speaking rhetorically, the woman reflected on the irony of how Thommen abused her and his current jailed state — and the fate of longer incarceration that awaits him.
“I wonder, James, how does it feel not to have any control?” she said. Thommen teased her and tormented her as he tortured her, she added, and now he may suffer as she did.
“You're a complete waste of precious space in the world,” she said, and marched from the podium to take her seat among the spectators, who sat rapt as she spoke.
Thommen slouched in his chair throughout the remarks. Calling Thommen's childhood terrible, defense attorney William Furniss said Thommen has issues with trust.
“I believe that's the root of what happened here,” he said. By pleading and facing a possible life term, Thommen has taken responsibility for his actions, he added.
When Judge John Rowley asked Thommen if he had anything to say before sentencing, he conferred briefly with Furniss.
“No, I'm good,” Thommen finally said.
Understanding or explaining Thommen's conduct is impossible, Rowley said.
“It's frightening beyond most of our experiences,” he said, adding that he does not see how Thommen can live with himself, knowing what he's capable of.
The sentence protects the community and creates a degree of peace, he said.
“Your sentence is justly deserved,” Rowley said.
Thommen won't see a parole board for 20 years, Tompkins County District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson said following the sentencing, which affords a measure of certainty for the victim. Thommen also waived his right to appeal, she noted.
“We have the certainty of no appeal, and the likelihood that James Thommen will remain in jail for the rest of his life,” she said.
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