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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Former judge sentenced to prison for bribery scheme and witness tampering

The former judge was sentenced to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a fine of $50,000.

Image Credit: Arkansas Times

Caught dismissing pending cases in exchange for sexually related “community service,” a former Arkansas state judge was sentenced to five years in prison for perpetuating a fraud and bribery scheme for years and bribing a witness in an attempt to obstruct the investigation into his scheme. According to court records, the former judge admittedly abused his power for more than 20 years, when he began as a part-time deputy prosecuting attorney during the mid-1990s.

“The defendant O. Joseph Boeckmann is a predator who used his position as a judge to gain access to vulnerable young men in order to satisfy his own prurient desires,” Trial Attorney Peter Halpern wrote in his sentencing memo. “The defendant did this for years. 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. His sentence must reflect the gravity of his criminal conduct.”

As a district judge for the First Judicial Circuit of Arkansas between 2009 and 2015, Boeckmann repeatedly dismissed traffic citations and misdemeanor criminal charges for young men in exchange for “community service.” The judge often invited the young men into his office or personal properties to pick up empty soda cans that he had scattered across the floor.

In order to provide evidence of their “community service,” Boeckmann took pictures of them bending over to pick up the cans. Several times, the judge asked to take photographs of their genitals in exchange for reduced bond or dismissed charges.

In 2014 alone, Boeckmann dismissed 66 cases involving white or Hispanic men between the ages of 15 and 35 based on their completion of “community service.” In September 2015, when investigators searched his residence, they seized at least 46 print-outs and thousands of digital images of young men, including some who spoke during his trial and sentencing.

“He acted corruptly while serving as a judge. When his back was against the wall, he obstructed justice,” U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker said, according to the Associated Press. “That sets his crime apart.”

In October 2017, Boeckmann pled guilty to wire fraud and witness tampering after admitting to bribing a witness who had reported him to the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission (JDDC). According to his guilty plea, the former judge bribed the witness in an attempt to coerce his testimony and obstruct the federal investigation into his illicit activities.

As a part-time deputy prosecuting attorney during the mid-1990s, Boeckmann admittedly began abusing his power by offering his personal “community service” in exchange for legal favors. Federal prosecutors declined to file charges against Boeckmann after he agreed to give up his post as deputy prosecuting attorney in 1998, but a few years later, he was elected district court judge.

On Wednesday, the former judge was sentenced to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a fine of $50,000, to account for the financial harm he caused through his fraud scheme.

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