Thursday, June 9, 2016

Arkansas judge is investigated for sex abuse, misconduct

Wynne, Ark. • For many male defendants in Judge Joseph Boeckmann's courtroom, the initial deal seemed simple enough: The judge would approach them after court, either himself or through a bailiff, and offer a way out of traffic or court fines.

His instructions were to gather some cans and bring them to his house or another location. Then he asked the defendants to take off their shirts, pretend to be picking up trash and let the judge take a few photos of them bending over to prove they had performed community service.

Sometimes, the men told investigators, the encounters went further. The judge might tell them to spread their legs a little. He might touch their buttocks a little. He might offer them a drink. Then the fines would disappear.

Now dozens of the defendants have accused Boeckmann of sexual abuse and misconduct, saying the small-town judge paid them to allow him to spank their naked buttocks with a paddle and to take photos of the red skin. Others said they posed nude in exchange for money to pay off court fines.

The head of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission called it "if not the worst, among the worst cases of judicial misconduct" in state history.

The case brought into the open gossip that had circulated in private for years about the judge from a prominent family that settled in the farming community more than a century ago.

Boeckmann "systematically used his authority and the trust of the state of Arkansas ... to prey upon people he knew would be less credible, people who were in danger of losing their houses, their jobs and their freedom. He is a predator," said David Sachar, the commission's executive director.

The 70-year-old Cross County judge, who has denied the allegations through his attorney, resigned in May, ending the commission's investigation. But at least part of the probe has been turned over to criminal investigators. No charges have been filed.

"His resignation is not to be construed as an admission of anything," said Boeckmann's attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig. He said his client concluded that it was "not worth going through the hearing to keep a position that he would have vacated at the end of this year anyway." The judge did not seek re-election in March.

Once the investigation became public, Sachar said, men came forward with similar stories from as much as 30 years ago, alleging Boeckmann had propositioned them, taken nude photos or engaged in other sexual behavior when he was the city attorney in the county seat of Wynne and a deputy prosecuting attorney.

One man, identified only as A.A. by the commission, reported having a sexual relationship with Boeckmann that started when A.A. hired the judge as his personal attorney. The relationship continued for more than a decade.

A.A. told investigators the judge sometimes loaned him out to friends for work to pay off A.A.'s debts or in exchange for leniency. Other defendants said A.A. put them in touch with Boeckmann and told them the nude photos were an easy way to pay off court fines.

About 4,600 photographs depicting nude or semi-clothed men in various positions were recovered from computers belonging to the judge, according to Sachar.

The commission also subpoenaed checks worth tens of thousands of dollars written from the judge's law firm and real estate company accounts to his own court, to other district courts and to defendants who had or later would appear before him as a judge.

The town of 8,400 people stands in the shadow of Memphis, Tenn., and is heavily dependent on agriculture.

By economic measures, Wynne is doing better than many communities in the Arkansas Delta. It has a handful of factories and a median household income approaching $40,000.

Townspeople had heard rumors about the judge for years.

Randy Scott's brother claimed Boeckmann propositioned him in the 1990s, when he was convicted of a murder charge. Scott moved away almost two decades ago, returning in 2014 in the hope that the small school district would be good for his teenage son.   (Continue Reading)

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Arkansas judge is investigated for sex abuse, misconduct

1 comment:

Betty said...

I agree with the article, this is one of the worst cases I've seen too.