Criminal Justice News and VIews

Interesting items related to criminal justice

My Photo
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona, United States

I love teaching and sharing knowledge. The Internet is a free passage to an amazing amount of knowledge provided by some of the greatest minds of the day. MIT, Oxford and other universities are now sharing lecture notes with the public and allowing us to dip into the overflowing fonts of wisdom that abound. Yale is but one university that has put actual lectures on the web.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Truth Can be Stranger than Fact

Ex-Judge Likely to Testify in Case Accusing Him of Indecent Exposure
Kelly Kurt
The Associated Press

Once considered one of Creek County, Okla.'s most powerful men, Donald Thompson struggles these days just to show his face in the hometown where he's accused of showing much, much more, his lawyer says.

But if necessary, the former district judge will testify in his own defense in a trial that began Monday on charges he exposed himself during court proceedings, attorney Clark Brewster said.

"These kind of allegations are so humiliating, so sensational," he said, calling Thompson a "quiet and humble man" who has been driven deeper into privacy by scandalous and false accusations.

Thompson served for more than two decades on the bench in eastern Oklahoma before his retirement in 2004 amid allegations he had exposed himself by using a sex toy during courtroom testimony.

After repeated court delays, the 59-year-old married father of three adult children was ordered in January to stand trial on four felony counts of indecent exposure, as well as a misdemeanor alleging he had lewd photos of himself and a woman on a state-owned computer.

I's rare for criminal charges to be filed against a judge, especially for a crime alleged to have taken place while the judge was on the bench, said Cynthia Gray, director of the Center for Judicial Ethics at the American Judicature Society.

A West Virginia circuit judge resigned in 1997 and pleaded no contest to battery charges for biting the nose of a defendant.

A municipal judge in New Mexico was convicted in 2003 for rape and charges he used his power as a judge to cause a woman to perform sexual favors in exchange for judicial leniency in a traffic case.

And every year, Gray said, a few judges face drunken driving charges. Most misconduct allegations, however, are handled by judicial disciplinary commissions, she said.

Thompson's longtime court clerk testified in his preliminary hearing that she saw the judge use a device called a penis pump" during several trials, including the murder trial of a nman accused of shaking a toddler to death. That case ended in a hung jury.

Foster said she was afraid to go to police and told her story only after being subpoenaed. She became tearful when she described learning in September 2003 that police had found a pump and were investigating the judge, who was well-known and well-liked in the small town where he had grown up. "

Ttrial has been moved to Bristow, 20 miles west of the courtroom where Thompson served.

But choosing a jury to hear the highly publicized case likely will be difficult, said special prosecutor Richard Smothermon. "I think it will be a relief to everybody to resolve this case," he said, referring to the repeated trial delays.

Concerns that the allegations against Thompson would touch off a wave of appeals from defendants alleging he didn't pay attention during their trial has not been realized. The issue has been raised only in the case of convicted murderer Darrin Lynn Pickens, whose death sentence was voided by a state appeals court in December.

The appeals court, however, based its ruling on Pickens' claims
of mental retardation. The Oklahoma Attorney General's Office doesn't believe a conviction in Thompson's case will automatically bring more challenges, said spokeswoman Emily Lang.

"They would have to prove he was incompetent," she said, "and we think we could fight those.

Thompson denies the charges and has said the pump seized in the case was a gag gift from a friend. He fired Foster after the investigation began and she later sued over her termination.

"They would have to prove he was incompetent," she said, "and we think we could fight those challenges."

If convicted, Thompson faces up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine on each felony charge and would have to register as a sex offender upon his release. The $7,489.91 he draws each month in retirement benefits also would be jeopardized by a conviction.

Thompson refuses to consider a plea bargain, Brewster said, "because the allegations are completely false."