Stop me if you’ve heard this one.
A judge is accused of using his powerful position to give lighter sentences to defendants who helped satisfy unusual sexual desires that included paddling young men and boys on their bare butts. The feds swoop in and indict him and the pervy judge lands in the slammer.
What? You’ve never heard that story before? Oh, that’s right, I forget this is Mobile. Our version of that story is a little different.
It goes something along the lines of: Powerful judge is accused of manipulating sentences in exchange for sex and spanking young men on their bare butts. He’s tried, but a specially selected judge tosses all of the charges against him, even after the jury hangs 11-to-1 for conviction. But before that kangaroo court can take place, the United States Department of Justice orders the local U.S. Attorney to recuse herself from the case without ever telling the public or the local district attorney why. The pervy ex-judge walks free and then runs for office. Twice.
Back to the first example. So, just a couple of weeks ago, former Arkansas District Judge Joseph Boeckmann, 71, pleaded guilty to federal charges that included wire fraud, witness tampering and corruptly using his official position. Judge Boeckmann resigned from office in 2016 after a state judicial review commission accused him of taking thousands of photos of young, male defendants and also spanking them. (Sound familiar????) The commission said in return for doing that, Boeckmann reduced sentences or personally paid their fines.
So shortly after Arkansas Spanky stepped down, federal prosecutors unsealed a 21-count indictment against him. Last month, the ex-judge pleaded out and got a five-year sentence in a federal slammer.
Reading about Judge Boeckmann brought back all kinds of fond memories of our own former judge, Herman Y. Thomas, a man who I would — after sitting through his trial and listening to hours of interviews with inmates who claim he sexually abused them — say is almost miraculously not sitting in prison right now. No, he’s actually running for the Alabama House of Representatives District 99 seat.
The original Judge Spanky and Judge Boeckmann do have so many things in common, other than their enjoyment of spanking young men’s bare bottoms, that they’d probably never lack for conversation if they ended up cellmates one day. For instance, Hermie also faced issues with the state’s judicial oversight commission following the revelation he was moving hundreds of cases from other judge’s dockets, and accusations he was sexing up and spanking defendants. Like Boeckmann, Thomas resigned his office once confronted. It was a slick move because it automatically sealed the Judicial Inquiry Commission records.
The big difference between the two men’s cases really came in how they were handled by the federal government. In Boeckmann’s case, former U.S. Attorney Eric Holder’s Justice Department obviously went after him. In Thomas’ case, Holder’s DOJ issued an order to U.S. Attorney Deborah Rhodes office to recuse from any prosecution of Hermie, citing a “conflict of interest.”
As I’ve written before, that order to recuse came Jan. 21, 2009, the very first day Eric Holder walked in as Attorney General. So essentially it was like, “Hi, I’m Eric. Where’s the men’s room? Oh, by the way, tell the U.S. Attorney in Mobile to recuse from any prosecution of Herman Thomas. Thanks.”
Using a Freedom of Information Act request, I was able to get one simple email from DOJ to Rhodes telling her to recuse. But the feds withheld 10 more pages from us.
I know that all seems rather bizarre, but it makes a lot more sense when you realize Holder’s wife is from Mobile. Do Hermie and Mrs. Holder and Mr. Holder know one another? It seems pretty likely two successful, politically involved members of the Democratic Party in Mobile have at least run into each other once or twice. If there’s another reason Holder would have walked in on his very first day in office and pulled his troops off Herman’s trail, maybe it’s in those 10 pages of emails we aren’t allowed to see.
I’m well aware Thomas has spent the past few years attempting to construct an alternate argument that he was framed by Republicans who didn’t want him to become presiding Mobile County Circuit Court judge. That story should include a visit from his fairy godmother. It’s total fantasy. Charlie Graddick was presiding judge and nobody was wrestling that away from him. Besides, Herman was finally prosecuted by John Tyson — a Democrat.
It’s fascinating to think a sitting Circuit Court Judge was allowed to spank young men and get away with it. Even if you don’t want to believe the semen in his little secret office had anything to do with claims he used his power to coerce men into having sex with him, Hermie admitted to spanking young men. He just said it was something he did in his spare time, not as a judge per se.
There weren’t a lot of people in a hurry to have Herman Thomas thrown in jail when all of this first became public. The DA’s office didn’t want to deal with it because of political ramifications, and the feds had told Tyson they were going to handle things. I’m sure plenty of people worried hundreds of cases might have to be retried when prisoners came out of the woodwork claiming Herman railroaded them because they wouldn’t play.
But federal prosecutors can still make it right. The civil rights violations alleged against Thomas don’t appear to have a statute of limitations. Eric Holder is nowhere in sight to help him. In fact, Jeff Sessions, who most certainly knows all about this, can and should pull the trigger any time he wants. We have a new, highly thought of U.S. Attorney right here in town who should be able to handle this easily.
At the very minimum, the people of this community deserve to see the other 10 pages of communications that let Herman Thomas escape federal prosecution nine years ago. He’s already run for state Senate once and he’s running for the House now and continues reapplying for his law license every year. Does he also work in positions that put him in contact with young men?
Most anyone who managed to escape prison, as Thomas certainly did, would lay low, move to a Third World country or change his name. But HYT isn’t built that way. He continues to push the ridiculous narrative he was screwed by politics even as he tries to again attain political power.
Is anyone around here remotely worried about how all this might eventually turn out?