Former Judge Joseph Boeckmann's decades-long obsession with the buttocks of young men came back to haunt him Wednesday when he was sentenced to the maximum five years in prison.
Despite being 72 years old and claiming to be in declining health -- both of which the former Cross County district judge and former prosecutor said entitled him to serve his sentence on home detention -- U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker went beyond the standard three-year sentence recommendation and imposed the statutory maximum, along with a $50,000 fine.
In October, Boeckmann entered guilty pleas to wire fraud and witness tampering. Both charges stemmed from a state and federal investigation into claims that between 2012 and 2015, Boeckmann used his position as an elected traffic judge to force some white or Hispanic men -- ranging in age from their teens to early 20s -- to perform "community service" in exchange for dropped charges.
That option, designed by Boeckmann, wasn't available to women or other men. It required the defendants to allow the judge to photograph them from behind as they bent over to pick up aluminum cans or trash, and sometimes included the caveat that they undress first. Boeckmann told the misdemeanor offenders that he photographed them only to document that they had completed community service.
State judicial officials have said Boeckmann is believed to have victimized many more young men than the six who were identified only by their initials when he was federally indicted in 2016.
Last week, prosecutors at the U.S. Department of Justice's Public Integrity section in Washington revealed in court documents that Boeckmann had been investigated over the same type of complaints in the 1990s, when he was a deputy prosecuting attorney in Cross County. Federal prosecutors ultimately agreed not to file charges if he resigned.
Boeckmann resigned his prosecutorial position in 1998, but was elected to the district judgeship in 2009. He resigned from the judgeship in May 2016.
In October, Boeckmann admitted to one count of wire fraud for dismissing a case and to a witness-tampering charge for trying to influence one man's testimony before the judicial commission. In negotiating the guilty pleas, the Justice Department agreed that it wouldn't object to a sentence in the 30- to 37-months range recommended under federal guidelines.
But on Wednesday, attorney Simon Cataldo urged Baker to sentence the former judge to the maximum term, citing Boeckmann's audacity in seeking a judge position after his agreement to resign from the prosecutor's job.
Boeckmann's attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig of Little Rock, argued that the unproven allegations stemming from the previous investigation were irrelevant to the current case and shouldn't be considered in sentencing. But Cataldo said he was willing to present evidence Wednesday to prove the 1990s allegations. He said both cases together demonstrate Boeckmann's "willingness to return to the conduct, in an even higher position of authority."
Baker agreed to hear an FBI agent's testimony about the 1990s case.
Lenny Johnson, a special agent, testified that he reviewed the FBI's case file from the investigation that began in 1996 when the agency received credible information that the Cross County sheriff's office was using inmate labor to work on properties owned by Boeckmann and his family.
While checking out those allegations, he said, a witness told agents that Boeckmann had young men pose nude or in suggestive poses in exchange for dismissing their charges.
Johnson said eight young men, who were facing charges like driving while intoxicated, theft and burglary, were interviewed by FBI agents.
He said six of them acknowledged that they had picked up cans while Boeckmann photographed them. One wasn't sure if Boeckmann took photographs of him, and the eighth said he simply took out the trash in Boeckmann's office for his community service.
Johnson said two of the young men admitted posing nude for Boeckmann, and seven of them said the prosecutor lowered or dropped their charges. One said Boeckmann wrote a personal check to cover the defendant's $150 bond.
Johnson testified that he recently tried to find all eight of those men, but located only one of them, who said he was ill and didn't know if he would be alive at the time of sentencing.
The man said he would write a letter to the court, but no letter was ever written, Johnson said.
Johnson also testified that he reviewed Cross County District Court records for 2014 and found that Boeckmann was the only judge who assigned community service. He said records showed that Boeckmann assigned 82 people that year to community service, and that 66 of them were white or Hispanic young men between the ages of 15 and 35.
Richard Milliman of Little Rock read a statement to Baker detailing how in July of 2014, he was pulled over for speeding in Cross County, en route to visit his mother in Memphis. He was 23 and driving 5 mph over the speed limit.
Milliman said he appeared before Boeckmann, who told him he was facing $500 in fines that would be erased if he collected two large garbage sacks of cans for charity and then waited for his next instructions.
Milliman said he gathered the cans and called a number the judge had given him. He said he was given an address and told to deliver the cans there, but when he arrived at the address, he was puzzled to see that it was a home -- and then he learned it was the judge's home.
He said the judge was drinking, and told him to dump the cans and then pick them up, so the judge could document in photographs that he had performed community service.
"I noticed while bending over that the judge was taking pictures from behind," Milliman said. "He said, 'Move your legs further apart.' ... He asked, 'Aren't you glad you don't have to pay that $500 fine?'"
Milliman said the judge began admiring his tattoos and asked to photograph the tattoos on his chest. Milliman said he declined, and began to panic as the judge distracted him by making him watch the judge's dog perform tricks.
When Milliman finally "made it out of that house," he said he "couldn't stop shaking" and drove to a gas station to be surrounded by other people and feel safe.
"I will not allow this monster to get away with damaging hundreds of lives," he told the judge. "This monster has gone unpunished long enough. Please make him an example to other terrorizers out there."
Metro on 02/22/2018
Print Headline: Ex-judge receives five years in prison; He took pictures of men’s behinds