When former Air Force Academy cadet Eric Thomas faced a disciplinary board in August 2012, a special agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations said he would come to explain how Thomas worked dozens of cases as a confidential informant and had been of great service to the Air Force.
The agent never showed up, and Thomas was expelled from the academy eight months later.
On Friday, an active-duty member of the Air Force Academy with direct knowledge of the case said the agent, Brandon Enos, did not show up because he was told not to by the local OSI commander, Lt. Col. Vasaga Tilo.
"He was literally walking out the door to the hearing 15 minutes before the hearing when Tilo told him not to go," said the source, who did not want his name used for fear of retribution. Instead, Tilo, who had little knowledge of the case, said he would speak to the commandant, the source said.
Tilo and the OSI did not respond to requests for comment.
The Gazette published the story of Thomas' involvement in the cadet informant program Sunday. In response this week, the Air Force made public statements dismissing Thomas as a cadet with a long history of misconduct who was not officer material and who did not get involved with OSI until after he was in trouble.
New information revealed by the source shows the academy's understanding of the case may be limited and that the Air Force has not tried to speak with the agents who have the most information about what happened with Thomas.
The person confirmed that Thomas started working as a confidential OSI source in the fall of 2010 - not the fall of 2011 as the academy asserts. This critical distinction means almost all of Thomas' demerits for misconduct were given during the time he worked with OSI.
The Gazette also obtained and examined Thomas' official disciplinary records and found only minor misconduct that would not have typically led to expulsion before his involvement with OSI. The examination supports the assertions by Thomas and the source about the cadet's OSI activities.
As an informant, Thomas wore wires, went after drug use and was involved in sexual assault convictions. Along the way, he said, he got caught for going off base and other infractions.
On Friday, an academy spokesman reiterated that Thomas did not become an informant until 2011 and declined to comment on the new information.
The person with knowledge of Thomas' case said the confusion over when Thomas started working with OSI is likely caused by OSI getting a new electronic database late in 2011 that made it difficult to access files before that time. Around the same time, he said, Thomas' former handler, Michael Munson, left the OSI attachment at the academy. With no easily accessible files or knowledgeable personnel, it was difficult for OSI to understand Thomas' full history as an informant, he said.
Munson, who is now a state trooper in Alaska, did not respond to requests for comment.
The source said the OSI commander also restricted what Enos could say in defense of another informant cadet, Vianca Torres. Though she had helped in several cases at the academy, including a sexual assault conviction, at her expulsion hearing Enos was permitted to speak about only one case.
Torres described Enos' testimony to The Gazette as "so vague it almost made things worse." She was expelled in November 2012.
In late November, Thomas said, he got an unexpected call from Enos after not hearing from the agent for over a year. The agent apologized, Thomas said, saying Thomas and Torres "got screwed."
"He was really sorry," Thomas said. "He said he didn't like the way the case was handled."
Enos, who works at the academy, declined to talk to The Gazette.
The source said Tilo has been the academy's sole channel of information about the confidential informant program. The source said Enos, who worked directly with Thomas, has not been contacted.
"There has never been an opportunity for the OSI agent to give his testimony about Eric Thomas," the source said. "Nobody has asked the handlers their opinion of what he did or their impressions of him as an officer candidate."
Thomas, who has returned home to South Dakota, said he was surprised and pleased by the anonymous disclosures. He has not heard from the Air Force since the article was published and hopes the information will allow him to graduate from the academy and become an Air Force officer.
"I knew the truth would eventually come out," he said. "I just wish all this did not have to happen for that to occur."
Texts show misconduct was committed serving air force
One of the things that got former cadet Eric Thomas expelled was that he continued to leave the grounds of the Air Force Academy even though he was restricted after getting in trouble. Commanders punished him for a "pattern of bad behavior."
But text messages from the three days in December 2011 for which he was formally punished show he was leaving the academy to do a drug buy, encouraged by Air Force agents.
In an example from one of these days, the text on the right shows Thomas texting with an OSI agent listed as "Prep School" in his phone. The text on the left shows Thomas texting with a cadet who is going to take him off campus to buy marijuana. The agent asks for updates, and Thomas provides details.