Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 47 / 20 November 2014
 
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Breaking: Thomas White, philanthropist accused of child molestation, dies

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Thomas White in a 2003 file photo. (Photo: Associated Press)
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Thomas Frank White, the gay San Francisco philanthropist who had spent more than a decade in prisons in Thailand and Mexico after being accused of child molestation, died in a Puerto Vallarta hospital Tuesday, September 10. He was 78.

White's attorney Stuart Hanlon told the Bay Area Reporter Friday that White had been taken from the prison in Puerto Vallarta to a hospital to be treated for a septic infection that White had received from a previous surgery for a dislocated shoulder and hip or knee surgery. Hanlon said that White's official cause of death is listed as pneumonia but that it stemmed from the infection.

White had been fighting extradition back to the U.S. to face charges that he traveled to Thailand and Mexico to molest boys. He had been convicted of child sexual abuse in Mexico in 2005 but those charges were later thrown out. Hanlon said that the only charge that stuck was his conviction of supplying narcotics to a minor, which White denied. Based on the drug conviction White should have been freed last year but Mexican authorizes kept him in custody pending a possible extradition to the U.S., Hanlon said. The attorney noted that White would have been freed on bail much sooner until that drug case had been fully adjudicated.

Earlier this year, Mexican authorities charged some of White's accusers with extortion. One of those accusers, Daniel Garcia, as well as Garcia's lawyer, David Replogle, are serving life sentences for the 2008 murder of a 74-year-old man in Palm Springs. Prosecutors said the men had conspired to swindle and kill the retiree.

White first began serving time in a Puerto Vallarta prison in 2005 after being arrested in Thailand and extradited to face charges in Mexico. He had been first arrested in Thailand in 2002.

The news of White's death came as a shock to his longtime friend Wray Pomeroy.

"I miss him very much already," the Palm Springs resident told the Bay Area Reporter Thursday evening.

Pomeroy has known White for 50 years and lived with him in Puerto Vallarta for 15 years before moving back to the U.S. Pomeroy called Puerto Vallarta a "shithole" and said he moved back to the U.S. in large part because of the substandard medical care in the city. He last visited White in prison in February.

Pomeroy maintains that White was set up by extortionists who were after White's wealth.

White's death was front-page news in at least three newspapers in Puerto Vallarta Wednesday. The Tribuna De La Bahia featured a banner front-page headline and a full-page article on the case and a sidebar story entitled "El gringo Thomas White" that detailed the history of the case.

White m

The Puerto Vallarta prison where Thomas White was an inmate, as shown in a 2011 photo. (Photo: Ed Walsh)
oved to Puerto Vallarta in 1990. His accusers said that the shelter he opened for street children was a front for prostitution. The case became a cause celebre for activists fighting child prostitution. The case was subject to an extensive two-part investigative story in the San Francisco Chronicle 10 years ago and a subsequent People magazine article.

In a 2007 communication to this reporter forwarded via email by Pomeroy, White blasted the Chronicle article. He said the photo showing him hugging children was taken out of context.

"This photo was taken at a school outing and I had been invited to attend as a major financial supporter of the school," White wrote. "The picture had been stolen from Nathan's apartment by Danny Garcia and doctored with tape on the children's eyes to give sinister implications. The faculty at the school was furious that the pictures had been used to suggest child abuse." White was referring to Nathan Lovaas, his former personal assistant.

White had been seeking to overturn a $7 million federal court judgment to 20 Mexican boys. White's attorney in the civil case, Geoffrey Rotwein, told the B.A.R. on Friday that he was optimistic on getting that judgment reversed. He noted that the 9th U.S. District Court of Appeal sided with him earlier this week on a discovery issue.

An Oakland attorney who represented the boys, John Hill, told the B.A.R. Friday that a psychiatrist examined 10 of the young men and determined the accusations were credible and that they suffered serious harm caused by White. Hill noted that White voluntarily agreed to the settlement before the other 10 boys were examined. The attorney questioned why White would agree to the settlement even before the other boys were examined if he really believed he did nothing wrong. White said that the settlement was the product of fraud.

When asked his reaction on hearing about White's death, Hill said, "I don't wish ill will on anyone."

The B.A.R. reached a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office on Friday. The spokesman was unavailable for immediate comment but asked the B.A.R. to email its inquiry on the case.

 

This story will be updated when the paper receives new information.






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