Former AR Judge Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Former Cross County district judge Joe Boeckmann, who was accused of demanding sex from male defendants in order to reduce their sentences, has pleaded guilty to federal charges of wire fraud and witness tampering related to the case.

Boeckmann, 71, of Wynne, made his plea in a Little Rock courtroom on Thursday morning.

Court officials say the former Arkansas state judge admitted to perpetrating a seven year-long fraud and bribery scheme in which he dismissed cases on his docket in exchange for personal benefits, and then bribed a witness in an attempt to obstruct an official investigation into the scheme. 

The plea was entered before U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker of the Eastern District of Arkansas. Boeckmann has been on home detention since his arrest in October 2016 and will remain on home detention until he is sentenced at a later date. 

According to admissions made in connection with his plea, from 2009 to 2015, Boeckmann served as a district judge for the First Judicial Circuit of Arkansas.  Boeckmann admitted to corruptly using his official position to dismiss traffic citations and misdemeanor criminal charges for young men in exchange for acts that he claimed were “community service,” but which actually benefited Boeckmann himself. Among other things, Boeckmann admitted that on some occasions he took official action to order these individuals to perform “community service” and used his access to these individuals during their purported “community service” to take photographs of them in compromising positions. In other cases, Boeckmann dismissed pending charges against defendants in exchange for sexually related conduct. 

Boeckmann admitted that the corrupt use of his office defrauded the State of Arkansas and its citizens of their right to Boeckmann’s honest services and also defrauded various cities and counties in Arkansas, as well as the State of Arkansas and the Arkansas courts, of money and property that they should have received as fines or fees from the individuals whose cases were fraudulently dismissed. 

In addition, Boeckmann admitted that during his scheme he instructed various individuals not to tell anyone about their “community service” sentences. After Boeckmann learned he was under investigation, Boeckmann also arranged to pay a witness to change his testimony. Specifically, Boeckmann admitted that in the fall of 2015, he learned of a witness who had provided information to the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission (JDDC) regarding Boeckmann’s practice of imposing personally beneficial “community service” sentences. Boeckmann admitted that he directed another individual to pay the witness to write a letter recanting the information the witness gave to the JDDC. According to his admissions, Boeckmann did this in order to prevent that witness from providing truthful information about Boeckmann to law enforcement and to influence, delay, and prevent that witness’s testimony in an official proceeding.   

“Boeckmann’s plea of guilty is an additional step toward seeing justice come for this man as a result of his egregious, unethical, and criminal actions. I am pleased for the victims that Boeckmann chose to enter a plea of guilty. While I am confident the victims were prepared to tell their stories at trial, I am happy they will not have to endure a public trial as a result of this morally bankrupt former judge. I am grateful to the Department of Justice Office of Public Integrity and the Arkansas State police for their assistance and perseverance in this case,” - statement from Emily White, Deputy Director of the JDDC.

Photo: Former judge Joe Boeckmann walking into Federal Courthouse in Little Rock on Thursday morning.

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