Criminal Justice

Former Alabama Judge Charged in Inmate Sex-Abuse Case

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A former judge in south Alabama has been arrested and released on $287,500 bond, concerning a 57-count state-court indictment that accuses him, while still on the bench, of sexually abusing and paddling inmates and a defendant who appeared multiple times in his own courtroom.

The charges against former Mobile County Circuit Judge Herman Thomas include kidnapping, sex abuse, extortion and multiple ethics violations. However, a lawyer for the ex-judge says Thomas himself is being victimized by a racist justice system, CNN reports.

“Did you ever think of the fact that this is the only black circuit judge we’ve ever had in Mobile County and that the right-wing Republicans have gotten rid of him?” said attorney Robert Clark who described the case as a “high-tech lynching” at a Friday news conference. “This is racism at its very finest.”

Thomas’ law license was suspended yesterday, reports the Press-Register, which has published multiple articles on the case.

If convicted on the most serious charge, kidnapping, CNN reports, Thomas would face a potential prison term of between 10 and 99 years, according to Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr.

Tyson describes the racism allegations as “absolute nonsense,” reports the Press Register in an article Friday on the charges against Thomas. Both the judge and the alleged victims are African-American.

A copy of the indictment (PDF) is provided by the newspaper. The Press-Register reports that it redacted the names of the inmates involved, because they are allegedly victims of sex crimes.

Both CNN and the Press-Register say Thomas is accused of checking inmates out of jail in order to force them into sexual activity, at least some of which allegedly occurred in a room near his courthouse chambers, the newspaper reports.

These allegations against Thomas follow an earlier judicial ethics case that led to his 2007 resignation from the bench, in which he was accused of giving some defendants special treatment and interfering in other judges’ cases, writes the Press-Register in a Sunday editorial.

It points to a number of as-yet-unanswered questions concerning the case against Thomas:

“How could any person, even a judge, routinely have checked out inmates from the Metro Jail? What really went on in the little room adjacent to Mr. Thomas’ chambers, and why did no one notice?” the newspaper asks. “And didn’t anyone in the courthouse realize that he was interfering in other judges’ cases?”

Additional coverage:

Press-Register: “FBI asks for public’s help in investigation of former judge Herman Thomas”

WKRG (2007): “Judge Herman Thomas Resigns, What’s Next?”

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