A district court judge in Arkansas resigned Monday and agreed to never pursue public office again in the face of mounting evidence that he traded reduced sentences and fines for sexual favors and provocative photos of young men under the guise of "community service."
The Arkansas Judicial and Disability Commission launched an investigation to determine whether to sanction or remove part-time Cross County District Court Judge Joseph Boeckmann from the bench after an investigator working on an elder abuse case complained that witnesses connected to Boeckmann were dropping his name and refusing to speak with her.
During the course of their investigation, the commission unearthed allegations of misconduct dating back decades.
"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."
Boeckmann became a Cross County District Court judge on Jan. 1, 2009. However, the commission said it discovered Boeckmann was using his position to sexually prey on young men as far back as 1985, when he worked as a deputy prosecuting attorney.
In one incident, a man told investigators he and other young men were made to take off their shirts for Boeckmann as he oversaw their community service. He told the boys he needed to photograph them to prove they were picking up cans as ordered. Instead, he had them pose as he took numerous photos of them, the man said. The victim was 16 or 17 years old at the time.
The man told the commission he encountered Boeckmann again years later as part of a child custody case. The man's ex-wife alleged he had committed a crime but changed her story at least once, and Boeckmann, a deputy prosecuting attorney, advised the judge that they could settle the issue outside of court.
Under the cover of darkness, Boeckmann brought the man to the Cross County courthouse and had him strip in a courtroom before he handcuffed the man and made him pose as Boeckmann took photos, the man said.
Documents released by the commission outlined a disturbing pattern. As a judge, Boeckmann routinely reduced fines and sentences for young white men accused of traffic violations or misdemeanor crimes and later photographed them in compromising positions, documents say. Sometimes the men were told to get naked and paddled by Boeckmann; other times he shot photos of their rear ends as they picked up cans as part of off-the-books community service ordered by him, according to the documents.
One man told investigators he was ordered to pick up cans and bring them to Boeckmann's home in 2014 as part of community service for a traffic ticket. In the 45 minutes the man was at Boeckmann's home, the judge made multiple comments about how he "didn't have to pay the $500" fine levied against him in court, the man said. He said Boeckmann photographed him from behind, ostensibly for proof of his community service, and had the man spread his legs farther and farther apart. The man said he became uncomfortable and refused an offer for Boeckmann to pay him $300 if he would pose as Michelangelo's statue of David and allow Boeckmann to photograph him.
The criminal investigation into the allegations is ongoing, and Boeckmann has not been criminally charged.
He resigned from his position Monday, four days after receiving notice that the commission had gotten 1,050 photos off his computer that "depict young men, many naked who are in various poses inside the judge's home and outside in his yard." The commission confirmed many of the men had appeared before Boeckmann as defendants in his courtroom.
He has denied all the allegations against him.
His resignation brought the Arkansas Judicial and Disability Commission investigation to an end. The commission has turned over all evidence to state and federal authorities.
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