Once, the judge allegedly asked a man to pose like Michelangelo’s Statue of David in exchange for $300.
He allegedly instructed another man to strip naked and bend over, handcuffed, inside an Arkansas courtroom while he snapped photographs, up close.
And on multiple occasions, he allegedly sentenced men — often young and poor — to illegitimate “community service” that ultimately led them to the judge’s home or office, posing for more suggestive photographs as “proof” they had completed their work.
“You’re free to go,” the judge allegedly said after the handcuff incident. “Case dismissed.”
These allegations are among dozens of disturbing claims outlined in state documents regarding the year-long investigation into a part-time Arkansas district judge accused of using his authority for the last 30 years to sexually prey on men charged with minor crimes.
The judge, Joseph Boeckmann, Jr., resigned Monday in the face of mounting evidence discovered by the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, which was tasked with determining if the man should be sanctioned or removed from the bench after an initial complaint filed last November. While Boeckmann had previously denied the allegations, his attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig, refused to comment further on the judge’s resignation, reported the AP. Boeckmann’s letter of resignation did not include either a denial or confirmation of the charges.
“He’s a criminal predator who used his judicial power to feed his corrupt desires,” David Sachar, executive director of the commission, told the Associated Press. “Every minute he served as a judge was an insult to the Arkansas Judiciary.”
Ongoing local coverage of the incident and publicity on social media motivated victims and witnesses to step forward, according to investigation documents, and share uncomfortable experiences they had with the judge, who presided over Cross County. Sachar told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that at least 12 alleged victims have been named in the commission’s complaint so far, and estimated there were “several dozen more, if not 100 or more.”
In a letter sent to Boeckmann’s lawyer last week, the commission claimed it had already obtained about 1,050 photos from the judge’s computer that “depict young men, many naked who are in various poses inside the judge’s home and outside in his yard.”
If the judge, who had previously denied the allegations, didn’t agree to resign by Monday at noon, the commission said it planned to expand its case to include additional allegations ahead of Boeckmann’s formal disciplinary hearing, according to the letter.
“I anticipate receiving in excess of 3,400 more photographs very soon, also taken from the judge’s home computers,” Sachar wrote. “… We identified many of the young men as those that your client had in front of him as defendants in Cross County District Court. Many of them are also recipients of checks from the judge during their time as defendants or probationers.”
Boeckmann’s resignation, which also required him to promise he would never again seek public office in Arkansas, signaled the close of the commission’s investigation.
The commission’s findings have been turned over to Arkansas State Police, a special state prosecutor and federal authorities, Sachar told the AP, but the judge has yet to be charged with any criminal wrongdoing.
An investigation into possible misconduct by the judge was launched more than a year ago, when an Arkansas Department of Human Services investigator lodged a complaint that Boeckmann had refused to recuse himself from a case involving the relative of a man with whom he had a long-term intimate relationship.
The commission filed its first complaint in November 2015, alleging that Boeckmann had violated more than a dozen ethical codes, including offering reduced punishments to young, male defendants in exchange for sexual favors. The complaint was amended in January 2016 to include additional accusations.
Since he took the bench on January 1, 2009, and even as far back as his time as a deputy prosecutor decades ago, the complaints alleged that the judge would sentence or intervene in the sentencing of young men, and sometimes teenage boys, offering community service but never recording the type of service on the docket.
Instead, according to the complaints, he would give the defendants his personal or office phone number and tell them to call to set a date. In examples listed in the documents, the defendants would pick up the trash on their own and then deliver it to Boeckmann’s office or home, where the judge would ask the defendants to bend over as if they were picking up the trash, then he would photograph them from behind. At least one victim, who was given community service after receiving a traffic ticket, claims the judge offered him alcohol when he delivered the trash.
In a response to the allegations, the judge denied that the photographs were sexual in nature and insisted they were “solely for the purpose of recording proof of community service.”
The commission alleges that financial records from two banks indicate Boeckmann was writing checks to criminal defendants with fines due to the Cross County District Court or the district court in the city of Wynne, the county seat. In a response to the complaint, Boeckmann’s attorney said “this is an unavoidable consequence of the fact that he is a part time judge with a private law practice in a small town,” documents show.
During another incident outlined in the complaints, Boeckmann became upset when one victim brought his mother with him to deliver the three bags of trash he was ordered to pick up. The judge asked the mother to wait outside his home while he took the defendant inside, according to the documents.
In one of the most disturbing documented incidents, the commission reported that a man came forward nearly 30 years after facing alleged abuse from Boeckmann when he saw a news story about the investigation.
The man, according to the complaint, said he couldn’t believe “the truth had finally come out.”
He told the commission that he was in trouble with the law as a younger man and sentenced to community service overseen by Boeckmann, who at the time was the deputy prosecuting attorney. As he picked up paper on the side of the road, Boeckmann would take photos, the man said. Years later, after Boeckmann represented him in a divorce case, the man told the commission he owed the then-lawyer money and had criminal cases pending against him.
He was called to Boeckmann’s office, told to pull down his pants and bend over, according to the documents. Then Boeckmann allegedly struck the man with a paddle and took photos.
“You’d better have a hard on next time,” Boeckmann allegedly said, according to the complaints.
In a letter to Boeckmann’s attorney, the commission said photos of the paddle were among the thousands uncovered from the judge’s computer.
“As you will see, there are numerous photos of naked young men from behind bending over after an apparent paddling,” Sachar wrote in the letter. “The paddle appears in photographs and has been identified by witnesses as belonging to the judge. Please accept this as notice to your client to not destroy (or) otherwise dispose of this paddle or other devices used to cause the red marks in the photographs.”