Arkansas judge resigns amid allegations of sexual misconduct

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An Arkansas judge has resigned amid sordid allegations of abuse of power on a grand scale, including swapping sex for reduced sentences and taking thousands of nude photographs of defendants and victims.

No criminal charges have been filed against the jurist, former Cross County District Judge O. Joseph Boeckmann, Jr. Calls and emails to his attorney for comment were not returned.

In a letter dated May 9 to the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission (JDDC), Boeckmann said that his resignation was effective immediately, and that he would never again seek a job as a local, county or state employee. The commission is a state body that investigates complaints about possible ethical misconduct by Arkansas judges.

Days earlier, JDDC Executive Director David J. Sachar sent a letter to Boeckmann's attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig, saying that about 1,050 photos had been seized from the judge's computer. Eventually, at least 4,600 photos were found, Sachar said.

Investigators identified many of the photos as young men that Boeckmann had in front of him as defendants in Cross County District Court. Many images depicted naked young men from behind, bending over after an apparent paddling.

"Every one of those pictures are such that I would not show my daughter," said Sachar. "They were graphic sexual pictures."

Victimizing young, poor men

The photos and other evidence were uncovered after authorities first investigated Boeckmann for allegations of conflict of interest.

In November, the commission filed its initial complaint, which included allegations that the judge had broken 14 judicial ethics rules. Boeckmann was accused of verbally abusing people -- mostly women and minorities -- in his courtroom, failing to recuse himself from cases involving business partners of his family, and offering young white men more lenient rulings in court if they agreed to perform sexual favors.

The commission alleged Boeckmann chose certain young male defendants to receive "substitutionary sentences." The Judge didn't alert court staff to what the sentences would be and simply wrote "community service" in court documents.

Boeckmann, the committee charged, contacted these defendants on their personal phones or gave them his personal numbers. The defendants would have to pick up trash and bring it to his home or office as evidence they had completed their "community service." There, the committee said, Boeckmann would have the men bend over to simulate picking up the trash while he took pictures.

The commission said some defendants even began long-term relationships with the judge during which he paid them to take nude pictures. One man, identified in documents as K.B., appeared before Boeckmann in court in 2010 as a result of misdemeanor charges. After guilty pleas, he was sentenced to fines in addition to court costs. K.B. says he "heard" from someone that he could contact Boeckmann directly to help him with his "financial situation." As a result K.B. and the judge entered into a relationship where K.B. allowed Boeckmann to photograph him clothed and unclothed in exchange for money, the commission said.

Sachar said the alleged victims were young men who had financial and legal difficulties, and Boeckmann took advantage.

"These guys are mostly working poor," he said, " A $350 court fine ruins them. How do you pay for diapers? Groceries?"

'A criminal predator'

In the course of its investigation, the commission claims to have found witnesses that testified to being victims who crossed paths with Boeckmann decades before.

In a document dated May 5, one alleged victim identified as "J.J" came forward and testified before the commission after seeing a news story on a judge facing JDDC charges. The man told the commission he couldn't believe that "the truth had finally come out." Thirty years earlier, J.J. was in trouble with the law and Boeckmann was the deputy prosecuting attorney, he said. When he performed community service he was monitored personally by Boeckmann, who took pictures when he bent over while picking up trash on the side of the road.

Years later, Boeckmann represented J.J. in a divorce case. He owed money to Boeckmann and had criminal cases pending as well. According to J.J.'s testimony, Boeckmann summoned him to his office and demanded that he pull his pants down and bend over. He was hit with a paddle and photographed. Boeckmann allegedly yelled about J.J.'s genitals as he paddled him. Afraid of retribution, J.J. did not report him.

"The guy is a criminal predator," Sachar said. "He takes advantage of people who feel powerless against him. Who would believe a guy with two DWIs over a judge?"

Another alleged victim, identified as J.M. recounted that in 1985 he was 16 or 17 years old and got a ticket for reckless driving. Boeckmann, the deputy prosecuting attorney at the time, allegedly told the judge that "he would handle it."

Boeckmann allegedly told J.M. to meet him at his office on a Saturday. J.M. says that when he arrived, a couple of other kids were there. They were driven four or five miles to a side street outside of town, J.M. said, where Boeckmann made them get out of the vehicle and take their shirts off. He allegedly then told them that he needed to take pictures to prove they were doing community service and told them to bend over as he walked around taking photos.

Years later, again in trouble with the law, J.M. says Boeckmann told him to meet at his office. J.M. said that Boeckmann allegedly ordered him to strip in a courtroom at the Cross County courthouse, handcuffed him, and took pictures while telling him to bend over. When J.M. finally couldn't take it anymore, Boeckmann allegedly responded 'OK, we're done," gave him a $50 bill and said, "You're free to go. Case is dismissed."

The judicial commission's case is closed with the resignation of Boeckmann. Sachar says the commission has turned over all germane information and evidence to legal authorities and the state of Arkansas has already appointed a special prosecutor to look into the case.

"JDDC has and will continue to assist in ongoing investigations," Sachar said.

Jack McQuary, the special prosecuting attorney, declined to comment on an open investigation.

By Chris Boyette