Judge Found With Thousands Of Nude Pictures Of Defendants Resigns
Victims said the judge would sentence them to community service, invite them to his home, and ask them to bend over to pick up cans while he took pictures.
An Arkansas judge resigned just days after he was found with thousands of pictures of nude men in his computer, many who appeared in his courtroom and received reduced sentences from the judge.
Cross County District Judge Joseph Boeckmann was accused of trading softer sentences in his court for men who went to his home and posed for him, sometimes bending over, sometimes nude, and sometimes in acts of masturbation, according to documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News.
In some cases, men sentenced by Boeckmann were photographed at the judge's home before Boeckmann paid their court fines himself.
It was a practice that investigators believe spanned the entire time Boeckmann served as a judge since 2009, David J. Sachar, executive director of the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission told BuzzFeed News.
In the months-long investigation, Sachar said they have identified about 30 men who were defendants in Boeckmann's court during the six-year period, were photographed at the judge's home, and received some sort of payment from the magistrate. Many others have not been identified yet.
"We had victims come forward in the last two weeks who had been denying all this time. There's a lot of shame and hesitation," Sachar told BuzzFeed News. "Of course, it took a lot of courage for those people to come forward."
Boeckmann has not presided over any new cases since November of last year, when the commission first announced the charges against him and the Supreme Court of Arkansas assigned his cases to another judge.
He submitted his resignation Monday, just days after the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission told his attorney they had obtained nearly 4,500 photographs of men in his home computer and camera, including several young men who had been sentenced to "community service."
According to the commission, Boeckmann would often offer "substitutionary sentences," to young men in his court, asking them for their personal number or giving them his personal cell phone number.
The men were typically white and between the ages of 18 to 35, according to the documents.
Instead of defendants being sentenced to picking up trash on county roads, the men would be invited to the judge's home where they would simulate the act of picking up cans from the ground, while, "Boeckmann would photograph the buttocks of the men as they were bending to retrieve the garbage."
In one case, the defendant told investigators Boeckmann asked him to take two bags filled with cans to his home, and began to take pictures of him picking up the cans at the judge's backyard.
Victims told investigators Boeckmann would tell them how to pose, sometimes telling them to spread their legs further. One defendant told investigators that after Boeckmann took pictures of him bending over, the judge asked him if he would go inside his home and pose "like Michelangelo's David."
Boeckmann is accused of keeping thousands of those pictures in his computer before he resigned and promised the commission to never again seek a job as a local, county, or state employee.
Sachar said the allegations surfaced when the commission was looking into an allegation of conflict interest, where Boeckmann had presided over a case of a personal friend.
"We were wondering, why is he handling a case involving family and friends?" he said.
In that case, Boeckmann had reduced a $50,000 bond for Crystal Avellino, who happened to be the mother of the judge's niece. But as investigators looked into the case, they found Boeckmann had also presided over cases involving Avellino's brother, who was engaged in a sexual relationship with the judge, Sachar said.
Investigators discovered a pattern of the judge contacting young male defendants from his court, telling them sentencing involved them doing "community service" at his home, and often paying them for posing for pictures.
"It's every bit of his judicial career," he said.
Some of the men were found to have developed a sexual relationship with the judge, while others only posed for the suggestive pictures.
One defendant told investigators he was paid for years to perform maintenance duties at rental properties owned by Boeckmann, and also for posing nude while the judge took pictures.
The judge would allegedly ask him to "spread my legs further and further apart," and later told him he would not have to pay a $500 court fine.
In some cases, investigators found that Boeckmann wrote personal checks to pay the court fees of the same men who appeared before his court as defendants.
Investigators have reviewed at least one of Boeckmann's checking accounts, which shows he issued 150 checks to seven defendants over a six-year span, paying them at least $30,000.
Officials have also found evidence the judge's actions might go back farther than his years on the bench, including his time as a prosecutor in the same judicial district before becoming a judge, and in his private practice.
One man told officials he hired Boeckman for his divorce and owed him attorneys fees at one point. The fees were forgiven in exchange for posing for pictures, with his pants down, after being spanked, Sachar said.
The commission pointed out that during his time as judge, Boeckmann has paid court fees, overlooked court fees, hired, or become involved in personal, sexual relationships with young white men defendants at his court, while at the same time "patronizes, yells and screams at those litigants who are minorities or female, with whom he does not have an intimate personal relationship with."
The judge repeatedly denied the allegations in statements to the commission during the investigation, and said the pictures were "solely for the purpose of recording proof of community service."
He submitted his resignation three days after the commission said it had reviewed 1,050 photographs, and was in the progress of receiving 3,400 more.
"Boeckmann denies engaging in any pattern of seeking out young Caucasian male litigants for the purpose of forming personal sexual relationships," the statement read.
Although his resignation ends the investigation by the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, Sachar said the case has been referred for a criminal investigation.
The case is currently being reviewed by federal investigators, as well as a special state investigator.