Sexual predator sentenced to lengthy term - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Sexual predator sentenced to lengthy term

By Chuck Weber email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX)-He was a sexual predator who'd gotten a break. But after his fifth probation violation, Thomas Conti faced a judge for sentencing. The judge threw the book at him.

All involved agree Thomas Conti's case is a tragic one. According to testimony in a West Palm Beach courtroom Friday, Conti, while a child, was sexually abused by a relative for years.

Then at age 15, Conti raped a 10-year old child. After being convicted of the crime, the judge gave Conti a chance to get help, ordering therapy and long term probation.

But prosecutors say since 2001, Conti violated his probation five times-- once working around children at a gym, most recently spying on an 11-year old in a Publix supermarket restroom in the Acreage. In the latest incident in June of last year, Conti went missing and became the target of a Sheriff's Office manhunt. When Conti himself in, he claimed he'd been abducted and beaten. Investigators said they found no evidence of that.

Friday in court prosecutor Craig Williams asked Judge Jonathan Gerber to sentence Conti to 30 years in prison. Conti's lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Susan Winston, asked for time served-- three years-- and lifetime probation on an ankle monitor, along with therapy.

Winston called to the witness stand Dr. Scott Costanza, head of a sex offender treatment program. Costanza said he had interviewed Conti, who's now 24. Dr. Costanza said Conti would never be cured of his deviant impulses, but with therapy, could gain tools to reduce the risk of re offending.

In passing sentence, Judge Gerber said he was sorry for Conti's difficult life, but he told Conti, "You are.. a danger to the public." Gerber gave Conti 30 years.

Conti's mother, Kelly Lavan, burst into tears in the courtroom. She left without commenting.

Public Defender Winston said after the hearing, "I'm really worried that we threw away a good person deep down, and he's been through so much trauma." Winston said she would appeal the sentence.

Prosecutor Williams said he was pleased with the outcome. He asked, "How many chances do you give somebody to re offend? I mean someone needs to protect our children."

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