Disrobed

Arkansas ‘Spanking Judge’ Traded Lighter Sentences for Sex, Commission Says

An investigation against a small-town judge turns irresistibly tawdry.

John Springer Collection/Corbis

“Tell you what, son. I’ll let you off easy if you come over to my house to do some ‘chores.’ You don’t mind if I take a few photographs, do you? I am the judge, after all.”

That, in a nutshell, is the sauciest allegation against Arkansas District Court Judge Joseph Boeckmann, filed this week (PDF) by the state’s Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission. But it is far from the only one: over 14 pages, the astonishing statement of allegations contains at least 13 incidents of sexual and financial misconduct, violating 14 ethics rules.

And the judicial commission may just be getting started. Alleging that the judge’s personal computer contains child pornography, the commission is conducting what it calls “computer analysis.”

One thing the commission cannot do is remove the judge. An elected official, Judge Boeckmann is up for re-election in 2016. The commission can petition the Arkansas Supreme Court, however, and has indicated that it may do just that following the completion of the proceedings.

To be clear, Judge Boeckmann’s office has not yet responded to the charges—he has 30 days to do so—and The Daily Beast has not obtained the evidence backing them up. In a statement to the Arkansas Times, an attorney for the judge said, “We will file a document denying the charges and will be defending against the allegations in front of the commission.”

If true, however, the judge’s alleged misconduct dates back several years—and is quite colorful. Since 2006, the judge is said to have maintained a secret and “intimate, sexual relationship” with one Anthony Avellino. Avellino got cars, a boat, rent money, and other favors. In exchange, the judge “engaged in spanking [the man] regularly, both for Boeckmann’s sexual pleasure or as punishment.”

Despite the relationship, the judge presided over multiple criminal cases against Avellino, his brother, and his sister Crystal—who, for good measure, also worked for Boeckmann’s sister and bore the child of his nephew. They seem to have done well by him. In 2014, the judge reduced bail on a multiple felony charge against Crystal Avellino from $50,000 to… zero.

And then there are the other boys, “Caucasian male litigants,” in the language of the statement. According to the judicial commission, Judge Boeckmann would “allow certain male litigants to linger after court and receive instructions on where and how… ‘substitutionary sentences’ shall be conducted.” Those sentences often involved community service at Boeckmann’s own home, including picking up trash.

As they did so, the judge is accused to taking “photographs the buttocks of the men as they were bending to retrieve the garbage.” The statement adds that “Boeckmann maintained these photographs of male litigants’ buttocks in his home for his own personal use,” and pursued “personal, sexual relations with the litigants.”

One young man, the statement reads, posed nude for Boeckmann in exchange for money from 2010 to 2015, during which time he appeared several times before the judge in criminal matters. (A nice added touch: He also helped the judge clear porn off his computer.)

Allegedly, this has been going on for years. “Boeckmann has repeatedly engaged in this practice since taking the bench on January 1, 2009,” the statement alleges. Further, bank records show that the judge paid the bills of the defendants’ lawyers—the same lawyers appearing before him in court.

Meanwhile, female defendants appear to be given harsher sentences than male ones, although the statement does not provide any data. “Boeckmann overlooks nonpayment of fines and costs for young men he has personal relationships with, but patronizes, yells and screams at those litigants who are minority or female.”

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All this took place in the small town of Wynne, Arkansas (population 8,367; motto “The City With A Smile”), 105 miles from Little Rock and 48 miles from Memphis, where Boeckmann maintains a law office in addition to working part-time as a district court judge.

Boeckmann is not known to be politically active. A search of his campaign donations by The Daily Beast revealed one to the 2002 campaign of Rep. Marion Berry (D-AR) and another to the campaign of former Gov. Mike Beebe, also a Democrat.

One wonders how such shenanigans could go on for so long in a small town like Wynne. Boeckmann has been investigated before. In 2011, he made a phone call to the Wynne police about an employee of his—apparently Avellino—who had stolen property. At the time, the judicial committee issued a “letter of admonishment” that said the call was improper (and resulted in the judge handling stolen property, albeit to return it). No mention was made of Avellino’s relationship with the judge at the time.

And yet, as the judge helped fix Avellino’s problems in court, he was spanking him in private.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with consensual play, and Boeckmann is probably not the only judicial officer who enjoys mixing business and role-playing pleasure. But that a judge in a small town could, as it is alleged, for six years, fix tickets, fix bail, and fix entire criminal convictions in exchange for secret sexual liaisons—some possibly consensual, others potentially not—boggles the mind.

Years of attractive, whites-only young men bending over in the judge’s front lawn, and no one suspected anything amiss? Welcome to the City With A Smile.