Mass. Clerk Accused of Courtoom Sex, Promising Leniency to Defendant

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A state-court clerk in Massachusetts has been accused of having courtroom sex with a defendant and promising her leniency in exchange.

James “Jim” Burke, 41, was arrested this morning by federal agents and is accused in a federal criminal case with having sex with an accused defendant in an empty courtroom in Chelsea District Court in 2005, reports the Boston Globe.

The specific charges he faces are one count of attempted deprivation of rights under the color of law and one count of deprivation of rights under the color of law, reports the Boston Herald.

The situation came to light when the woman, who was in court in December 2008 with her counsel seeking to get a prostitution case dismissed, told the lawyer about the earlier alleged incident in 2005, according to both newspapers.

The lawyer alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his client’s accusation, and the FBI opened an investigation. Burke allegedly made incriminating statements during a subsequent recorded conversation with the unidentified woman, again propositioning her for sex and reportedly admitting the 2005 sexual encounter, as well as another incident with a different person, according to the newspapers and an FBI affidavit in the case.

Burke has been released on $10,000 unsecured bail, and a probable cause hearing is scheduled next month. The newspapers apparently did not obtain a comment either from him or his lawyer, if he has one.

His current employment status is unknown, the Herald notes.

If proven, Burke’s alleged conduct is “a perversion of the legal system and a gross abuse of power,” according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Kelly. He is in charge of public corruption unit at his office.

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