Ex-judge Boeckmann pleads guilty to witness tampering, wire fraud | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Ex-judge Boeckmann pleads guilty to witness tampering, wire fraud

Posted By on Thu, Oct 5, 2017 at 9:30 AM

click to enlarge AFTER SENTENCING: Joseph Boeckmann - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • AFTER SENTENCING: Joseph Boeckmann
Joseph Boeckmann, the former district judge from Wynne facing federal wire fraud, bribery and witness tampering charges, had no comment this morning when he arrived for a change of plea hearing with his attorney Jeff Rosenzweig.

Boeckmann is expected to enter a plea bargain on charges arising from allegations that he traded light treatment in his court for sexual favors from defendants. The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission investigation of that led to his resignation from the bench and formed the basis of the federal investigation.

UPDATE FROM DAVID KOON: Shaking visibly and at times using a walking cane during today's hearing before U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker, former judge O. Joesph Boeckmann pleaded guilty to two felony counts this morning in exchange for the dismissal of more than 20 other counts against him. Federal prosecutors are recommending a sentence of between 30 and 37 months in prison. He'll be sentenced after a probation office report.

Arkansas Times published a long cover story on the Boeckmann case in June 2016

Represented by Little Rock attorney Jeff Rosenzweig, Boeckmann, 71, answered Baker's questions in a low monotone as he pleaded guilty to Count One of the federal indictment, which concerns wire fraud and honest services fraud, and Count 20, which deals with witness tampering. The plea deal is not binding, however, on Baker's final sentencing ruling. Boeckmann could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.

In describing those counts prior to the guilty plea, federal prosecutor Peter Halpern said the wire fraud and honest services fraud count was due to Boeckmann denying the counties and cities in the First Judicial District and the state of Arkansas fines, fees and costs by dismissing counts against traffic and misdemeanor defendants in exchange for what Halpern called "quote-unquote community service" — a scheme in which Boeckmann would have young men come to his house to "pick up cans," during which he would photograph them bent over in compromising positions. Investigators who later searched Boeckmann's computers later found over thousands of such photographs. This "community service" Halpern said, was not part of any approved community service plan.

Halpern said Boeckmann dismissed the charges against a defendant listed as "Person I" in the indictment, in exchange for sexual favors. Halpern said another defendant who had a case pending before Boeckmann, "Person D," had his case dismissed after performing work at Boeckmann's house in addition to sexually related conduct.

As described by Halpern, the witness tampering count was related to the allegation that in October or November of 2015, Boeckmann had learned that a former defendant named "Person J" had provided information to the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission. The count says Boeckmann directed another person to give money to "Person J" in exchange for "Person J" submitting a letter to the JDDC, recanting his testimony.

After the charges had been read, Boeckmann pleaded guilty to both charges from the counsel table, where he had asked to sit after telling Baker he needed to sit down. He will be sentenced in 90 days, at which time the government will dismiss the remaining counts against him. He was released after today's hearing. He had no comment as he entered and left court this morning.

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