LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A state disciplinary panel filed civil administrative charges against an Arkansas judge Tuesday, alleging he carried on inappropriate sexual relationships with defendants.
The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission lodged the charges against 69-year-old Cross County District Court Judge Joe Boeckmann. If the charges are substantiated, the commission could recommend that the Arkansas Supreme Court remove him from his part-time judicial position in Wynne.
David Sachar, executive director of the commission, said the original complaint lodged against the judge was filed by an investigator at the Department of Human Services’ Adult Protective Services division. That complaint alleges the judge inappropriately handled at least one case involving the sister of a man with whom the judge had a long-term intimate relationship. The investigation expanded to include allegations that Boeckmann showed preferential treatment to younger white male defendants and probationers who came before him in court and that he engaged in sexual conduct with some of them, according to the commission’s charging document.
Boeckmann didn’t return phone calls seeking comment, but attorney Jeff Rosenzweig, who is representing Boeckmann, said the judge plans to contest the allegations.
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“We will be filing a pleading denying the allegations, and we will fight the charges in front of the commission,” Rosenzweig said.
Boeckmann has 30 days to respond and ask for a hearing, which would be scheduled within 90 days. The commission has the power to admonish, reprimand or censure a judge, and can recommend to the Supreme Court that a judge be suspended or removed.
Commission staff have also turned part of the 14-month investigation over to a state prosecutor, Sachar said.
Prosecutors in the First Judicial Circuit, which includes Cross County, said the potential criminal investigation had been referred to the Arkansas Prosecutor Coordinator’s office because of the conflict of staff having tried cases in Boeckmann’s court. A phone call to the coordinator’s office was not returned Tuesday.
According to the complaint, Boeckmann reduced a $50,000 bond for the sister of the man he was in a relationship with. She was released on recognizance on charges of felony theft and abuse of an endangered or impaired person. The woman also has a child with Boeckmann’s nephew and works at an elder care facility run by Boeckmann’s sisters, according to the charging document.
Other defendants alleged that Boeckmann handed out punishments in lieu of community service or fines that did not appear on court dockets, including picking up trash at Boeckmann’s home.
Several defendants alleged Boeckmann took pictures of their buttocks as they bent over to pick up cans. Another defendant alleged he entered into an agreement to allow Boeckmann to spank him in exchange for reduction in his fines, and another alleged he agreed to pose naked for photos in exchange for cash. At least one defendant alleged he entered into a long-term sexual relationship with the judge that included living at his home and the judge buying him two cars and a boat, according to the complaint.
It wasn’t clear how many people may have struck such deals or how many court fines were not collected or paid as a result of Boeckmann’s actions, Sachar said.
As of Tuesday, Boeckmann was still on the bench, Sachar said. He said he had not ruled out asking the Supreme Court for an extraordinary order suspending Boeckmann while the allegations are pending.
The commission previously admonished Boeckmann for not recusing himself from hearing cases involving people he had a personal relationship with. The complaint Tuesday also alleges Boeckmann retaliated against the police officer who filed that complaint against him in 2009 but does not provide details.