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Ex-Judge Traded Sentences for Sex Photos, Gets Prison Time

O. Joseph Boeckmann, a former Arkansas judge, dragged the judiciary to a new low.

Eclipsing the recent judicial downfall of Alex Kozinski, Boeckmann was sentenced to five years in prison for granting leniency to defendants in exchange for sexual favors. He pleaded guilty to charges that included corrupting his judicial office, wire fraud, and witness tampering.

As often occurs in plea bargains, the former judge received a much lighter sentence than he faced. However, in a rare move, the sentencing judge gave Boeckmann a longer term than prosecutors recommended.

A Crime Apart

Boeckmann, 72, faced a lifetime in prison for crimes that had their roots in the 1990s. Prosecutors said his pattern of misconduct was evident when he was working as a deputy prosecutor in Cross County. Under pressure from authorities, he resigned that post in 1998.

But he went on to win election to the bench, where he began diverting defendants in misdemeanor and traffic cases to "community service." At sentencing, one victim said Boeckmann invited him to his house and offered him $300 to pose nude for photographs. Another victim said he was forced to pose for photos and threatened with his life if he didn't recant what he told investigators.

Prosecutors recommended three years in prison, but Judge Kristine Baker said she had to impose a longer sentence.

"He acted corruptly while serving as a judge," she said. "When his back was against the wall, he obstructed justice. That sets his crime apart."

Financial Fraud

In announcing the sentence, prosecutors said the judge perpetrated a "seven-year-long fraud and bribery scheme" to obtain "personal benefits, including sexually related conduct."

According to the plea agreement, Boeckmann admitted that he defrauded the state of money through fines that defendants should have paid to the government. As a result, he was ordered to pay $50,000 to the state.

Meanwhile, the federal judiciary has closed its investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Kozinski, the former judge of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He abruptly retired after reports that he showed explicit pictures to his former clerks and grabbed the breasts of one woman.

Judicial authorities said earlier this month that they had no jurisdiction over Kozinski once he stepped down.

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