The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

September 3, 2013

BREAKING: Man who brought loaded shotgun to Athens High gets 10-year sentence

By Jean Cole

ATHENS — Despite pleas for leniency from his children, the man convicted bringing a loaded shotgun to Athens High School  in 2010 will serve 10 years in prison.

Thomas Smoak, 54, of Athens, will be now be transferred from the Limestone County Jail to Kilby Correctional Facility in Mount Meigs for classification and, possibly, transfer to another prison to serve his sentence, Jones said.

Limestone County Circuit Judge James Woodroof Jr. today sentenced Thomas Smoak, 54, of Athens, to the maximum sentence allowed under the law— 10 years in prison on one count of making a terrorist threat and 10 years on one count of bringing a deadly weapon onto school property. However, Woodroof allowed Smoak to serve those sentences concurrently, resulting in 10 years total prison time.

Smoak was convicted in March following a three-day trial in the Limestone County Courthouse.

During a 2 p.m. sentencing hearing, Woodroof listened to pleas for leniency from Smoak’s two sons and one daughter as well as from Smoak’s defense attorney, John Totten of Athens, who said Smoak’s trip to the school property and the fact that he had a loaded weapon in his vehicle were a misunderstanding.

Woodroof also heard requests from District Attorney Brian Jones, who asked for the stiffest possible sentence.

After a 30-minute recess, Woodroof returned and swiftly sentence Smoak.

“We are pleased with the sentence,” Jones said after the sentencing. “He is a menace to the community. When you bring a weapon to school to do harm to the principal or to the students, you need to be in prison.”

Smoak was convicted of bringing a loaded shotgun to Athens High property on May 25, 2010, after Principal Chris Bolen suspended Smoak’s son for five days for allegedly uttering a racial slur.

Smoak’s wife telephoned the school to warn school officials that her husband was angry and heading to the school with a shotgun.

The school was locked down, and Athens Police arrested Smoak after a van matching the description of Smoak’s, entered and then exited the school parking lot.

Inside the vehicle and within reach of the driver, police found a shotgun with one round in the chamber, five in the tube and three more bullets in his left shirt pocket.