by Caleb Talley
Joseph Boeckmann, the former Cross County District Judge accused of giving lighter sentences to defendants in exchange for sexual favors, was sentenced to a statutory maximum prison term of five years.
Boeckmann, 72, of Wynne, faced 21 charges of wire fraud, witness tampering, bribery and violating a federal travel act. Had he been convicted of each, Boeckmann would have faced up to 260 years in prison. Instead, he pleaded guilty last year to mail fraud and witness tampering.
On Wednesday, appearing before U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker, Boeckmann’s attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig, characterized the former judge as an elderly, broken man, seeking home detention in place of imprisonment.
Federal prosecutors sought a sentence of up to 37 months. Baker instead sentenced Boeckmann to the maximum term possible, saying his crimes deserve a more severe punishment.
Boeckmann left the bench in May of 2016, following an investigation by the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission that began in 2014. According to documents released by the commission, a number of witnesses came forward to give accounts of their interactions with Boeckmann during his time as a judge, as well as his time as a deputy prosecutor in Wynne. At the time, David Sachar, executive director of AJDDC, said it was likely the worst case of judicial misconduct in Arkansas history.
After Boeckmann’s resignation, the case was turned over to a special prosecutor. He was indicted in October of 2016.
Boeckmann was accused of offering community service to men, with ages ranging from 16 to 22, in lieu of court fines and fees. Their assignments, according to the commission report, often included going to his Wynne home, taking their shirts off and pretending to pick up cans while Boeckmann photographed them. Some of his victims even alleged the former judge gave them money to pay off court fines in exchange for posing nude for photographs.
The state judiciary board also obtained more than 4,600 photos of nude or semi-nude men from Boeckmann’s possession.
During Boeckmann’s sentencing on Wednesday, two of his victims addressed the court, recounting an experience posing nude for the former judge.
Baker’s stiffer sentence came, she said, as a result of Boeckmann’s attempt to obstruct justice. As investigators closed in, he allegedly approached witnesses with bribes and threatened to make one of his victims disappear if he did not recant his statement to authorities.
According to authorities, the FBI first began investigating Boeckmann in the 1990s, during his time as a deputy prosecutor. Federal prosecutors declined to prosecute after he agreed to resign his post. Government lawyers said it appeared Boeckmann ran for the bench so he could again have access to young men in vulnerable positions.