Former District Judge Joseph Boeckmann of Wynne, who stepped down from the bench in May amid a judicial conduct investigation that he traded light sentences for sexual favors from defendants, has been indicted on federal charges.
A 21-count indictment filed Oct. 5 was unsealed today. It accuses Boeckmann of wire fraud, bribery, violation of the federal travel act and witness tampering.
Boeckmann, 70, quit the bench and agreed never to seek office again as the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission was investigating allegations that he gave favorable treatment to young men defendants in court in return for sexual improprieties, particularly posing for suggestive photographs, sometimes nude and after paddling. He wrote checks to lawyers for the young men, had images on his computer and was accused of a variety of other misdealings in using his court for illicit purposes. Boeckmann presided over misdemeanor and traffic cases.
Information developed in that investigation was shared with federal authorities, who continued to investigate.
The indictment is based on Grand Jury testimony from nine unnamed people who’d appeared in Boeckmann’s Cross County court on minor charges.
The eight wire fraud counts say taxpayers were deprived of fines and fees that otherwise might have been assessed in Boeckmann’s court on on account of his scheme to use his position to obtain “personal services, sexual contact and the opportunity to view and to photographi in compromising positions persons who appeared before him traffic and misdemeanor criminal cases in exchange for dismissing the cases.” Typically, the indictment said, he’d wait until court had concluded and asked to meet with defendants alone. Then he’d provide his personal telephone number to work out terms of “community service.” He’d have them pick up litter and photograph them bending over to pick up cans. He also variously offered consideration to people for being photographed naked, masturbating or after paddling. The judge altered dockets to show erroneously that sentences were discharged for community service. Boeckmann used the telephone or text messages to carry out the scheme.
Federal program bribery was charged because the state of Arkansas received federal assistance for operation of the justice system.
Ten charges of violation of the federal travel act pertain to telephone calls made or, in two cases, actions Boeckmann took to entice someone to travel from Tennessee to Arkansas.
The two witness tampering charges alleges that, between October and November of last year, Boeckmann attempted or used another person to attempt to intimidate, threaten or otherwise corruptly persuade a witness not to testify before the Grand Jury.
Boeckmann is in custody at the Pulaski County Jail pending a bond hearing at 2 p.m. Wednesday.
The FBI investigated the case with assistance of the State Police and the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission. Trial Attorneys Jonathan Kravis and Peter Halpern of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Special Prosecutor Jack McQuary of the Arkansas Prosecuting Attorney’s Association are prosecuting the case.
Emily White, whose investigation for Judicial Discipline blew the case open, issued a statement:
Today is a good day for the people of Arkansas. Accountability does extend to judges. Mr. Boeckmann could not escape criminal liability just by resigning his office as a judge. The overwhelming majority of judges in this state are honest, fair and hardworking people. We have said that before, however, Mr. Boeckmann was an exception to that norm. Today, I am delighted for the victims and witnesses who came forward and spoke the truth about Joseph Boeckmann to both the JDDC and other agencies. Their bravery shone a light into the darkness that surrounded Mr. Boeckmann and his many victims. Judges should at all times remain neutral and detached and fair and impartial in their dealings with citizens. They are generally the last persons we expect to prey on members of society. I trust that the criminal conduct we uncovered through our ethical investigation will be fully handled by the agencies responsible for overseeing those areas of the law.