A Cross County district judge was accused by a state disciplinary panel Tuesday of multiple violations of the judicial code involving a wide range of offenses, including lenient rulings for sexual favors from younger male offenders, possessing child pornography and verbal abuse of people in his courtroom.
Statement of allegations against BoeckmannView
The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission announced that it filed formal charges against District Judge Joseph Boeckmann Jr. of Wynne, whom it alleged violated 14 judicial ethics rules, including abuse of office and breaking state law.
The commission's director, David Sachar, said Boeckmann has 30 days to respond to the allegations, which were the result of a 14-month investigation. The case could then go to a public trial before the nine-member commission.
Boeckmann did not return calls placed to his office. The judge's attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig, offered this statement: "We are going to file a response denying the allegations, and we'll be fighting the charges in front of the commission."
Depending on its findings, the commission can issue letters of discipline, ranging from caution to reprimand. The panel also can ask the Arkansas Supreme Court to suspend or remove Boeckmann from the bench.
Sachar said the commission also handed over information to a state prosecutor, but he declined to identify the prosecutor.
Boeckmann was first elected to the part-time judicial position in 2008 and took the bench in 2009. He is not seeking re-election.
The investigation began with the Department of Human Services' Adult Protective Services Division, after an investigator fielded a complaint against a woman working for Wynne Elder Care LLC.
Eventually, the DHS investigation led the judicial commission to conduct its own investigation, in which it found unidentified witnesses who claimed to have seen pornography on the judge's computer that involved "prepubescent males," according to the complaint.
The prosecuting attorney's office for the 1st Judicial Circuit, which includes Cross County, did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday. A call to the prosecuting attorney coordinator's office, which is often in charge of appointing special prosecutors in cases involving judges, also was not returned Tuesday.
Arkansas State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said he couldn't comment on the case.
"There is a gag order in place," Sadler said. "I can't address any questions with regard to anything on the individual mentioned."
The woman investigated by DHS, Crystal Avellino, was charged on Sept. 25, 2014, with three felony counts of theft of property and three felony counts of abuse of an endangered or impaired person.
That same day, Boeckmann reduced Avellino's $50,000 bond to an own-recognizance bond, and she was released.
Avellino's employer at the time, Wynne Elder Care LLC, is run by Boeckmann's sisters, Paulette McClanahan and Carolyn Carter. Ethics investigators noted Tuesday that Boeckmann was also a "financial contributor" to the company, according to Tuesday's allegations.
Avellino is also the sister of Anthony Avellino, who was once a law client of Boeckmann's, the judge's former employee and Boeckmann's "intimate partner" for at least 10 years starting in 2001, the complaint said.
Crystal Avellino is also the mother of Boeckmann's niece, whom she had with Boeckmann's nephew, Charles "Chuck" Carter, the complaint alleged.
According to the complaint, Boeckmann did not disclose his relationships with the Avellinos or recuse himself from multiple criminal cases involving that family over a period of several years. He also presided over cases involving criminal citations filed against his nephew, Carter, according to the complaint.
Beyond the closely knit relationships, Boeckmann is accused of "awarding community service to certain litigants based on gender," the complaint said, in which the judge offered "substitutionary sentences" to young men. Those sentences often involved picking up cans on the side of the road or at the judge's Wynne residence, Tuesday's complaint said.
"Boeckmann would photograph the buttocks of the men as they were bending to retrieve the garbage," the complaint stated. "Multiple male litigants have been photographed. ... Boeckmann maintained these photographs of male litigants' buttocks in his home for his personal use," the complaint said.
The complaint stated that Boeckmann's "method of operation" was to seek out young white men, mostly between the ages of 18 and 35, who had criminal or traffic citations in his court.
During meet-ups for "trash pickup," Boeckmann is accused of soliciting "sexual relations" from the men in exchange for reductions in court costs and fees, according to the commission's investigation.
On Tuesday, Sachar said he was unable to say how many men were involved or how many court fees were waived as a result, but he said his staff had pored over thousands of pages of court and financial documents.
One witness, identified only as "A.A.," was in jail for several days in 2001 when his girlfriend approached Boeckmann, then an attorney, for help, and Boeckmann asked if "A.A. was good looking," the complaint stated.
Through 2011, A.A. worked for Boeckmann and was involved in a sexual relationship with him, the complaint said, and even had a room at Boeckmann's home.
In that time, Boeckmann bought A.A. two vehicles and a boat, the complaint said. He also paid rent and utilities for A.A.'s family, and engaged in "spankings" with A.A. whenever A.A. got into trouble, the complaint stated.
According to the complaint, finance records showed that Boeckmann "gave money to multiple lawyers in Wynne who have consistently appeared before him" and gave money to "public officials in Wynne, whose agencies are responsible for criminal investigations of individuals appearing before Cross County District Court and criminal defendants with cases before Boeckmann's court."
The complaint also accuses Boeckmann of treating young white men favorably in court while being "undignified" in his treatment of women and members of minority groups.
He "regularly yells and screams at minority litigants and women before the court, even calling some 'stupid' from the bench," the complaint stated.
He also is accused of calling some court staff members "stupid" from the bench.
According to the complaint, Boeckmann broke 14 judicial canon rules. Among them are those governing: promoting confidence in the judiciary; giving precedence to the duties of the judicial office; impartiality and fairness; bias, prejudice and harassment; external influences on judicial conduct; competence, diligence and cooperation; decorum; disqualification; extrajudicial activities; use of nonpublic information; and acceptance of gifts.
The complaint concluded:
"The totality of Boeckmann's conduct ... exhibit[s] an attitude of bias, prejudice, partiality and a general lack of fairness against certain persons who enter his courtroom," it stated. "Additionally, it exhibits an appearance of impatient, undignified and discourteous demeanor and it exhibits the appearance of impropriety in his day to day dealings between family members, their employees, his personal relationships and his courtroom. Finally, the allegations exhibit possible violations of criminal law."
Metro on 11/18/2015
Print Headline: Panel alleges judge broke 14 ethics rules