Clarence Thomas raised him 'as a son.' Now he's facing 25-plus years on weapons and drug charges. (2024)

The man who was raised by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginni, as their own son from ages 6 to 19 is in jail awaiting trial on drugs and weapons charges, Business Insider has learned.

Mark Martin, the grandson of Thomas' sister, Emma Mae Martin, lived with the Thomas family in Virginia from 1997 to 2010, during which time Clarence and Ginni Thomas were his legal guardians. He's a central figure in the furor over undisclosed gifts that Thomas received from a billionaire friend, Harlan Crow.

Now 32 years old, Martin told BI in an interview from the Jasper County Detention Center in South Carolina that Clarence and Ginni Thomas washed their hands of him years ago.

"I haven't really heard much from them in a long time," Martin said. "I tried to communicate with them a couple of times, but I've never gotten any response."

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In a 2007 C-SPAN interview, Thomas told the host Brian Lamb that Martin, who was 16 at the time, was living with him and his wife and that they were "raising him as a son."

"For me, in so many ways, it's rewarding because it's brought me, again, full circle," Thomas told Lamb. "I was about the age my grandfather was when he took my brother and me. And Mark was about the age my brother and I were when he took us in."

The Thomases sent Martin to the elite military prep school Randolph-Macon Academy, as well as a residential therapeutic treatment center called Hidden Lake Academy, which frequently used camping trips and wilderness programs as therapeutic tools.

(Hidden Lake Academy became the subject of congressional hearings about facilities for troubled teens over claims they could mislead families and turn abusive.)

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Crow, a conservative donor and longtime family friend of the Thomases, paid the tuition for both schools, ProPublica reported. None of the payments were recorded at the time as gifts on Thomas' financial disclosures. Crow is an alumnus of Randolph-Macon. This month, in financial disclosures, Thomas acknowledged two vacations Crow had funded in 2019, one to Bali and another to California.

"I guess they looked into Randolph-Macon Academy because Harlan Crow actually graduated from there, so I guess that was behind their decision to send me there — and then apparently he helped finance the HLA trip, too," Martin told BI, though he said he wasn't aware at the time that Crow had footed the bills.

While the total amount of tuition Crow paid on Martin's behalf remains unclear, fees for all four years at both schools would have exceeded $150,000, ProPublica reported.

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When neither placement prevented Martin from acting out with minor drug use and other petty crimes, the Thomases cut him off, Martin told BI.

Last summer, according to court records reviewed by BI, Martin was arrested on charges of drug trafficking and weapons possession. A warrant reviewed by BI indicates that at the time of his arrest in June 2023, Martin's vehicle was stopped as part of a juvenile-sex-trafficking investigation. He has not been charged with any crimes related to sex trafficking.

In separate charges from 2021, Martin was accused of trafficking more than 400 grams of meth and heroin. Those charges are still pending, according to records reviewed by BI.

If convicted, Martin faces at least 25 years in prison as part of mandatory-minimum sentencing laws in South Carolina for certain types of drug offenses. He faces at least five additional years for three charges related to the unlawful carrying of a pistol.

Due to the nature of the charges against him, which are considered violent crimes in South Carolina, Martin is ineligible for bond, his lawyer told BI. Martin denies the charges against him but has not entered a plea in either case because of a court backlog that has delayed proceedings.

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Thomas and Crow did not respond to repeated requests for comment on this story.

While his own father was incarcerated, Martin remembers much of his childhood as the Thomases' ward as relatively privileged. Together, Martin said they traveled to more than 20 countries; he frequently spent summers wakeboarding or waterskiing and babysitting Crow's son when the elite families vacationed together.

That all stopped when Martin entered high school, he said, when the Thomases decided they "just didn't have time to deal with" him and sent him away to the boarding schools. From his freshman year of high school on, Martin said he rarely saw his Supreme Court-justice great-uncle or his wife, who Martin said had raised him "like another mother and father" since childhood.

Clarence Thomas was 7 when his mother sent him to be raised by his grandfather in 1955. Thomas lived with his grandfather Myers Anderson, whom Thomas called Daddy, until Anderson kicked him out of the house when Thomas dropped out of his freshman year at Conception Seminary College in 1968.

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Comparing their experiences, Thomas told C-SPAN Martin was "more of a challenge than I was."

"But I think the thing that I'll be able to do is, I'll be able to always look my grandfather in the eye and say that I did for my great-nephew what my grandparents did for us — my brother and me," Thomas said.

Martin says he was eventually expelled from Randolph-Macon Academy for failing a drug test as a junior in high school. At that point, Martin told BI Clarence and Ginni Thomas shipped him back to Martin's mother's house in Georgia, where they'd taken him from a decade prior, and he'd rarely heard from them since.

"I actually don't know if they know that I'm locked up —I'm not sure they'd care too much," Martin told BI. "I've seen — I've probably seen them two times, maybe three times, over the last 14 years."

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Representatives for Randolph-Macon Academy declined to comment for this story, and BI could not independently confirm Martin's claims regarding the reasoning for his expulsion.

Martin, now a father of four children himself, said he believed the Thomases were probably disappointed in the direction of his life. He understands why they would be. However, between his father's imprisonment and being taken in by a justice of the Supreme Court at a young age, Martin said he had to "grow up a lot faster" than a normal kid would have — and wished his great-aunt and -uncle saw that he could have used their continued support while he was struggling.

"I just wish they'd at least communicate with me —get to know my children," Martin said. "They raised me like another mother and father, so I wanted my children to know who raised me into the person that I became. I want them to be around for that, at least —to see my kids grow up."

Clarence Thomas raised him 'as a son.' Now he's facing 25-plus years on weapons and drug charges. (2024)
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