The Columbia postal carrier who tossed her mail into the woods rather than deliver it during last summer's scorching heat has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of littering.
Madeleine Kimberly Thomas, 34, is scheduled to be sentenced May 3. She pleaded guilty Tuesday in Howard County District Court. She faces a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, but the prosecutor said she is not recommending that Ms. Thomas serve any jail time.
Ms. Thomas -- a temporary mail carrier on her first day of work after a week of training -- tossed mail from her route into the woods near an office complex in Columbia's Owen Brown village July 15. The temperature that day exceeded 100 degrees.
The undelivered mail was found the next day by a man and his sons who were in-line skating near the Woodmere office complex, off Broken Land Parkway.
Howard County police and U.S. postal inspectors collected 978 pieces of mail -- including bills, checks, priority mail and overnight packages -- intended for the area around Cedar Lane and Hickory Ridge Road in Hickory Ridge village, according to court documents. The mail, undamaged, was delivered later that week.
Ms. Thomas admitted to postal inspectors that she tossed the mail into the woods rather than deliver it, the documents said. She also told postal inspectors that she had become physically ill during her route, said Doug Bem, a postal inspector who investigated the case.
Ms. Thomas could not be reached for comment, but her attorney, Bruce Powell, confirmed that she has asthma that flared up that day because of the heat. He said she was hospitalized several days later for the asthma.
"Clearly, she wasn't exercising very good judgment," Mr. Powell said. "She's moved on with her life and is anxious to get beyond this."
Mr. Powell said Ms. Thomas -- who had been living in Columbia last summer -- is now working as a nurse and living in Baltimore.
At the time that the mail was found in the woods, postal inspectors said that whoever was responsible could be charged with either federal mail abandonment or state theft -- both of which carry far stiffer penalties than littering.
Although postal inspectors presented evidence to federal prosecutors, the U.S. attorney's office chose not to pursue the case, Mr. Bem said. The U.S. attorney's office did not return a phone call yesterday afternoon.
Ann Singleton, the Howard assistant state's attorney who handled the case Tuesday, said that proving a theft charge would have been very difficult.