It never fails to amaze me the way people will support the most questionable behavior in the world as long as it’s alleged to be by a politician who’s on “their team.”
I’m currently standing slack-jawed after listening to people I know to be bright, educated and thoughtful try to explain why they’re willing to support a so-called “judge” who left office under the cloud of unbelievable breaches in judicial standards and has been accused of horrifically vile sexual assaults.
I just can’t believe the number of people who’ve sheepishly told me they’re supporting former Mobile County Circuit Court Judge Herman Thomas in his bid to win the Alabama House of Representatives District 99 seat.
Oh … maybe you thought I was talking about a different ex-judge whose campaign for public office is fraught with questions about sexual assaults committed years ago. I guess that is the talk of the town right now, so I can understand the confusion.
In fact, I’ve had a few conversations with people positively giddy about the recent allegations that U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore had a penchant for writing in high school girls’ yearbooks, then sexually assaulting them when he was an Etowah County district attorney in the ‘70s.
And I have to say it’s hard not to buy what these women are selling. They seem sincere and if you listen to Moore’s radio interview with Sean Hannity, he pretty much admits to trying to date high schoolers. I didn’t think Roy Moore was fit to represent Alabama before these allegations and this just makes it clearer.
So while I understand the chortling over Roy’s troubles, I am fascinated by how willing these same people are to give a pass to Herman “Spanky” Thomas as he continues trying to resurrect the career he destroyed while acting like a maniac in a judge’s robe.
I’d heard through the grapevine for more than a month that Herman was actually going to take another stab at elected office, but an article last week in the Mobile Beacon said he’s made it official and will try to replace the retiring James Buskey. Thomas has run for the Alabama Legislature before, but lost. He tried to unseat Sen. Vivian Figures shortly after she testified against him in the 2009 trial where he faced 57 counts that included ethics violations, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree sex abuse, first- and second-degree extortion and first-degree sodomy.
The line of reasoning among Herman supporters seems to be that the spanking judge has “paid his dues” for the escapades that caused him to resign from the bench in 2007. He’s been a community organizer and has relentlessly preached the gospel that he was the victim of some kind of race-based hit job designed to take him out before he became — dun, dun, dunnnn!!!! — presiding judge of the Mobile County Circuit. Reminiscent of Roy Moore’s complaints of a conspiracy to trash him before the election, isn’t it?
But let’s just set the Wayback Machine for 2002 and talk about what really happened. That was the year an inmate named Michael Dewayne Anderson filed suit against the then-District Court judge and became the first to claim Thomas threatened to make his life difficult if he didn’t engage in some sexual hanky-panky. Anderson sent complaints to the Alabama Ethics Commission as well as the Judicial Inquiries Commission (JIC), and included sworn statements from other inmates who’d had dealings with Thomas, but nothing was done.
His lawsuit against Thomas was quickly bounced by the very white Circuit Court Judge Robert Kendall, who was also one of Thomas’ biggest supporters. It would take five more years before an effort to manipulate a relative’s jail sentence led to revelations Thomas had been moving hundreds of cases on and off other judges’ dockets.
Eventually a full-blown JIC investigation of Thomas ensued and rather than face the accusations — as well as the gathered evidence — Thomas resigned from office, conveniently sealing all of the investigative records. Along the way it was discovered Herman had a second small office in Government Plaza where he would meet with prisoners or others caught up in the justice system. Some of those people made claims Thomas was pulling their pants down and then striking their bare butts with his fraternity paddle.
Some of the claims were even worse — that the judge had demanded sex in that little office from those young men he’d call in. Semen was discovered in the carpet. Evidence was piling up. Yet two years would pass before Herman was finally indicted.
District Attorney John Tyson said he’d been told repeatedly by the U.S. Attorney’s Office that the FBI was investigating Thomas and that they would handle any indictment and prosecution. But suddenly, on Eric Holder’s first day in office as U.S. Attorney General, orders were sent to the local U.S. Attorney to recuse herself from the Thomas investigation. No public reason was ever given, but I did get that very first email ordering the recusal via a Freedom of Information Act request, although nine others were withheld.
Tyson eventually indicted Herman, but the trial was a joke. Most of the assault charges had passed the statute of limitations, and the appointed judge, who slept through most of the trial, clearly intended to make sure Thomas walked. In the end, the jury deadlocked on several charges — 11-1 for conviction on some — but the judge swept any chance of a retrial with a wave of his hand, claiming there wasn’t enough evidence despite hours of testimony from men detailing spankings and sexual acts.
Maybe Thomas skated on the charges because it would have opened the door to retrying thousands of cases he’d overseen. Maybe Holder’s wife being from Mobile gave him inside help. It would certainly explain why the feds never prosecuted the numerous civil rights violations he stood accused of committing. But he wasn’t acquitted because of a lack of believable evidence.
People are going to believe what they want to believe, but I sat through the trial and I’ve listened to hours of recordings of inmates telling of sexual assaults at the hands of the “Spanking Judge.” The evidence against Thomas is certainly far more voluminous and researched than what many of us are willing to accept as fact about Roy Moore.
And it seems that evidence was more than enough for the Alabama Bar Association’s Disciplinary Board, which disbarred Thomas just after his acquittal, and eight years and numerous appeals later still has not reinstated his license.
“The board finds that these spankings and paddlings were not a form of mentoring or discipline but were rather engaged in by Thomas for his own sexual gratification,” the disbarment order concluded. “It is clear to the board that these young men were coerced into complying with Thomas under the threat of being sentenced to or returned to jail. Moreover, these spankings were not among those of the nature that a parent might give to their own child, but rather were sexually motivated assaults.”
If you find Roy Moore unworthy to hold office because of the sexual assault claims against him, you can’t turn around and blithely absolve Herman Thomas’ past. The only thing more obvious than the hypocrisy of that stance is that we truly do need better people to run for public office.
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