Municipal court fines collected nearly double in disgraced judge's absence
WYNNE (KATV) —
The amount of money the city of Wynne is now collecting in court fines has nearly doubled compared to this time last year. Wynne's Mayor Bob Stacey said it all seems to be tied to disgraced Judge Joseph Boeckmann being removed from the bench.
Stacy said it all seems to make sense now - for years the amount of money being collected in municipal court fines had been dwindling for the city of 8,300. But the mayor of Wynne said court fines started trending upward ever since now former Judge Joseph Boeckmann started being investigated by the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission for a conflict of interest in a case he presided over in 2014.
"When you double your income over the same period of time from last year, it gets your attention," said Mayor Stacy.
Mayor Stacy realized the upward trend in court fine collections when he made his monthly budget presentation to the Wynne City Council at their regularly scheduled council meeting. The numbers for April 2016 were double the amount of money collected for April 2015 - $123,462 compared to $59,465 respectively.
The nearly 100-percent increase in court fines collected appear to be the result of the Arkansas Supreme Court suspending former Cross County District Judge Joseph Boeckmann with pay back in November 2015. Boeckmann hasn't heard a case since then and resigned earlier in May amid new findings in a JDDC investigation into his alleged sexual misconduct involving potentially dozens of young white male defendants.
"He was on the bench the whole time up to this time last year," said Stacy. "The numbers correspond - it's relatively easy to see that."
According to City of Wynne budget documents obtained by KATV, in 2005 the city collected $213,221 in municipal court fines for the whole year. The amount remained relatively the same in 2006 ($202,148), in 2007 ($194,425), and 2008 ($206,969). In 2009, Boeckmann was elected district judge and the drop off in court fine collections began with only $190,555 collected that year.
Court fines collected in 2010 were the outlier, where the collected amount went up to $206,637 - but in subsequent years, the amount of money in court fines collected dropped to $177,084 in 2011, $137,901 in 2012 and $164,630 in 2013.
In 2014, the amount of money collected in municipal court fines for Wynne increased to $208,560 and remained relatively the same in 2015 at $206,446. However the increase in the amount of money being collected by the Wynne "Administration of Justice Fund" also corresponds with the years Boeckmann was being investigated by JDDC.
JDDC began investigating Boeckmann in 2014 when the now former judge, "allowed either overtly or implicitly, family members to use his judicial position to attempt to influence a criminal investigation." In 2015, JDDC began looking into allegations of sexual misconduct involving Boeckmann giving reduced sentences or dismissing court fines in exchange for defendants performing "community service."
"Community service" involved defendants bending over and picking up cans for Boeckmann while Boeckmann photographed the defendants from the rear, according to JDDC's investigation and court files in a newly filed civil suit against Boeckmann. Often times "community service" would escalate to where defendants would be photographed clothed and unclothed in requested poses, according to court documents.
Gary Green, the attorney representing four civil suit plaintiffs suing Boeckmann for emotional damages, said he has since received phone calls from two currently incarcerated men who both claim similar treatment from Boeckmann dating back to the 1980s. Green said the two are now contemplating filing a lawsuit for post-conviction relief, claiming they received unfair trials.
"I'm not happy about it, and it's an embarrassment as well," said Mayor Stacy.
Stacy said if court fines continue to be collected at the rate they've been collected at so far this year, the city of Wynne could collect more than $300,000 in municipal court fines - close to $100,000 more than last year.