Former Arkansas Judge Sentenced to Five Years in Prison
A former Wynne, Arkansas judge, O. Joseph Boeckmann, was sentenced to five years in prison for routinely dismissing pending cases in exchange for questionable “community service” including submission of photos by defendants in compromising positions and other sexual conduct. In October 2017, the judge pleaded guilty to wire fraud and witness tampering. He admitted to the “community service” scheme, which prosecutors said defrauded the state, counties, cities, and courts of funds they should have received as fees from the individuals whose cases were dismissed. In a plea agreement, Boeckmann said he used his privileged access to defendants in misdemeanor and traffic cases to take the photographs, and then told the young men not to tell anyone.
The federal indictment indicated Boeckmann took the photos of defendants “in embarrassing positions; positions that he found sexually gratifying,” as the defendants picked up litter and aluminum cans off the ground. In one instance he also asked a defendant to be photographed naked, or while masturbating, or while being paddled on his bare buttocks.
Boeckmann, now in his seventies, attempted to pay one witness in the case to recant his statement after learning he was under investigation, according to the Department of Justice. Witness Kyle Butler said the judge forced him to pose for explicit photographs, then threatened his life if he didn’t take back the details he provided.
Richard Milliman of Memphis said the judge also snapped photographs of him from behind as he picked up cans. At one point, Boeckmann even offered Milliman $300 to pose like Michelangelo’s David sculpture, but Milliman refused. “I’ve never felt more betrayed by the justice system,” he said while testifying in court.
During sentencing, prosecutors said the judge had “perpetrat[ed] a seven-year-long fraud and bribery scheme” for his own personal and sexual benefits. The FBI had investigated similar conduct by Boeckmann when he was employed as a part-time deputy prosecuting attorney in an eastern Arkansas county in the 1990s. Federal prosecutors declined to prosecute with the understanding that Boeckmann would resign.
“Nonetheless, a few years later the defendant ran for and was elected as a district court judge and undertook the same course of conduct, but from a different vantage point in the courtroom,” Peter Halpern, trial attorney for the Department of Justice, wrote in the sentencing memo.
Halpern also called Boeckmann “a predator who used his position as a judge to gain access to vulnerable young men in order to satisfy his own prurient desires.” The judge, Halpern said, used “the men’s powerlessness and poor socioeconomic circumstances to create a personal collection of explicit, exploitative images,” adding, “His actions impacted dozens if not hundreds of young men, he caused unknown financial losses to various cities and counties, and he tampered with witnesses in an attempt to keep his reprehensible conduct secret. He acted corruptly while serving as a judge. When his back was against the wall, he obstructed justice. That sets his crime apart.”
Boeckmann, who resigned in May 2016, was also fined $50,000 and ordered to serve three years of supervised release after completing his prison sentence.