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Mysterious Navy Vets founder says he'll represent himself at trial

Bobby Thompson, right, talks with lawyer Mark Stanton in court in Cleveland on Tuesday. Thompson pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption, theft and money laundering after almost two years as a fugitive.

Associated Press

Bobby Thompson, right, talks with lawyer Mark Stanton in court in Cleveland on Tuesday. Thompson pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption, theft and money laundering after almost two years as a fugitive.

Clad in an orange jumpsuit, manacled at the wrists and ankles and limping badly, Bobby Thompson was arraigned in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas in Cleveland on Tuesday morning.

After nearly two years as a fugitive, Thompson, 66, pleaded not guilty to charges of corruption, theft and money laundering stemming from his years running U.S. Navy Veterans Association, a sham charity housed in a Tampa duplex.

Common Pleas Judge Hollie Gallagher refused to allow Thompson, who led authorities on an intensive, cross country manhunt, to post bail. He remains in the Cuyahoga County jail.

Thompson was silent during the brief hearing Tuesday, speaking only to acknowledge he understood the charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 25 years.

Though the U.S. marshals who apprehended him in Oregon on April 30 found nearly $1 million in cash in a rented storage unit, Thompson told authorities he is indigent and needs a public defender.

On Tuesday morning, his court-assigned attorney, Mark Stanton, said Thompson wants to be his own lead counsel.

A hearing on that request will be held later this week.

Thompson is also charged with stealing the identity he used during the years he ran Navy Veterans. The real Bobby Thompson is a former Bureau of Indian Affairs employee who lives in Washington state.

When he was arrested, the man known as Thompson was carrying three other stolen identities. The storage unit he had rented contained a suitcase of birth certificates and personal documents that could be used to create additional aliases.

Officials are seeking the public's help in uncovering Thompson's true identity. Tipsters can call the U.S. Marshals Service toll-free at 1-866-492-6833.

Kris Hundley can be reached at (727) 892-2996 or khundley@tampabay.com. Brian Albrecht of the Cleveland Plain Dealer contributed to this report.

Mysterious Navy Vets founder says he'll represent himself at trial 05/08/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 11:12pm]
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