LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — New allegations have been filed by the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission investigators against Judge Joe Boeckmann. Witnesses allege they were offered drinks, asked to take sexually provocative photos and even began sexual relationships with the judge while having cases pending before his court.
The JDDC first confirmed to Fox16 Investigates that an investigation into Judge Boeckmann was underway back in August. By November, 15-pages of allegations were officially released against the judge, and the Arkansas Supreme Court removed his docket and Boeckmann from the bench.
Now, the JDDC laying out more explicit allegations against the elected, part-time justice accused of abusing his power over defendants.
“The behavior alleged is egregious. There’s no way around it and certainly flies in the face of everything good about the judiciary,” said JDDC executive director David J. Sachar.
In the updated complaint, an additional 15 pages of allegations are laid out. Boeckmann is accused of inviting defendants to his home to perform “community service,” offering them drinks and demanding they take photos bent over. Some of those photos, according to the allegations, depict only the men’s backsides to supposedly confirm that community service in Boeckmann’s court had been completed.
“I’d certainly welcome the judge’s explanation for some of these photographs,” Sachar said. “I think they’ll speak for themselves. They are photographs that appear to be for one purpose, which is to show the backside of a man. “
One of the new victims in the case was a minor who appeared in court for a traffic violation. He told the JDDC investigators that he was photographed and felt uncomfortable with the judge offering him alcohol.
Another victim said he arrived at the judge’s home at Boeckmann’s request. The judge, the victim said, offered to pay him hundreds of dollars to take a nude photo in the style of the “Statue of David”.
“It’s exploitation in the worst way in that you’re using the position of authority to pick on those who are young and vulnerable,” Sachar said. “A leader should never take from those he’s trying to lead.”
The judge is also accused of making thousands of dollars in payments to dozens of defendants who appeared before him. And according to the complaint, this behavior occurred over a span of years, hundreds of check and all while some of these defendants appeared before Boeckmann multiple times.
“We’ll see if he has a credible answer.I don’t think you’ll find any judges in that state that would say it’s normal to drive away with defendants from court, or have them come to their house..or offer them drinks or take pictures of them from behind,” Sachar said.
Judge Boeckmann has maintained his innocence and denied the previous allegations, even alleging that photographs he took were for documenting community service. He also noted that he had, as the JDDC alleged, made payments to attorneys who argued in front of his court. However, the judge did not believe those actions to be improper.
“I can understand being from a small town. He’s a part-time judge, and it’s likely that he would do some business with people in his court,” Sachar said. “But these are multiple payments to people who appear in his court on a regular basis and the other side of the case before him may not have that knowledge.”
A phone call to Boeckmann’s attorney late this afternoon regarding the new allegations has not been returned.
Fox16 Investigates was also able to obtain a copy of a protective order signed by Circuit Judge Chris Morledge back in August 2015. We have been working since then to obtain a copy through Freedom of Information requests, and it confirms what we had only been able to attribute to sources.
That is, a special prosecuting attorney “is investigating and may prosecute Joe Boeckmann for alleged crimes committed as District Court Judge for Cross County, Arkansas.”
The order goes on to say, “All records file marked, filed or kept by the Clerk’s Office concerning the investigation by the Special Prosecutor shall be sealed to any and all persons other than personnel of the Special Prosecuting Attorney […] All law enforcement officers, staff of law enforcement agencies and any employees of the Courts of Arkansas […] are further ordered to refrain from any discussions, communications or any releases of information concerning the investigation of Joe Boeckmann to anyone other than investigators.”
We have reached out to Judge Morledge to ask if he has recused himself from any activity associated with Boeckmann’s case to avoid an appearance of impropriety, since Boeckmann was serving as district judge in his judicial district and referred defendants to his court for felony cases.
Morledge sent the following response by email, “I signed the “gag” Order because that is my duty as Administrative Judge in this District. To my knowledge, there is no case against Judge Boeckmann for which any of the Judges in this District would need to recuse. If that becomes the case, we will deal with it at that time.”
To read the full list of allegations, click here.