Meet our new best friend Herman Thomas. He’s the former Alabama judge about to face charges that he traded opportunities to paddle and have sex with male inmates in exchange for more lenient sentence. Oh, this is good.
Set to begin today, the trial has Thomas facing charges of sodomy, kidnapping, sex abuse, extortion, assault and ethics violations. Note that Thomas is a former judge; the first allegations made against him were in 2001 in a lawsuit filed by an inmate claiming Thomas in 1999 offered a lighter sentence for sexual favors. In 2007, the rumors grew too loud to ignore, and Thomas stepped down.
Thomas, who was known for wearing distinctive bow ties, stepped down from the bench in 2007 after the allegations of paddling surfaced and just ahead of a judicial ethics trial that could have forced him out of office. He was indicted on the more-serious charges this past spring by a Mobile County grand jury. If convicted of the most serious charges — sodomy and kidnapping — he faces from 20 years to life in prison.
The oldest incident in the charges dates to 1999, his first year as a circuit judge. The first public claim against Thomas surfaced in lawsuits filed by an inmate in 2001 in Mobile circuit court and in federal court that claimed the judge offered to help him with his case in return for sex. Both lawsuits were dismissed, and Thomas’ reputation remained unblemished.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Nicki Patterson said authorities began looking at Thomas after he changed a jail sentence in 2006 for his cousin, former Mobile County school commissioner David Thomas, even though the case was being handled by another judge. Other cases that Thomas had taken over from other judges without their approval soon surfaced, she said.
Some inmates in those cases described being checked out of the jail for meetings with Thomas in his car or in his private office in the county courthouse. First, there were reports of inmates having to pull down their underwear for spankings with a wooden paddle. Then came allegations of oral and anal sex, according to court records.
And then there’s this bit of damning evidence:
Defense attorney Robert “Cowboy Bob” Clark calls the accusers “lying felons” who are trying to wreck the career of “a prestigious member of the Bar for over 20 years.” The NAACP has defended Thomas and claims race is behind his prosecution.
But Patterson disputes that, noting that each of the victims is black, and says that jail checkout records back up inmates’ claims about trips to Thomas’ private office, and other inmates spotted marks after paddlings. There also is other evidence, according to court records, including one inmate’s seminal fluid on the office carpet. The inmates also were able to describe in detail Thomas’ unmarked windowless office.
Does anybody know not to shit where you sleep?