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Alabama Judge Resigns Amid Prisoner Spanking Allegations and Judicial Improprieties

In the face of a looming ethics trial and allegations that he spanked male prisoners, Alabama's Mobile County Circuit Judge Herman Thomas has resigned.

Thomas had been on paid suspension since March 2007 while he awaited an October 29 trial for ethics violations. The 30 ethics charges filed against him alleged that he had assisted friends and relatives with their legal troubles - one claim involved Thomas helping a cousin manipulate where he served a criminal sentence, while other claims asserted that Thomas took cases away from other judges, without permission, and changed the defendants' legal status or sentences.

Thomas resigned on October 2, 2007 shortly before 5 p.m., which was the deadline for judicial prosecutors to file any additional charges before his ethics trial. His resignation meant the trial before the Alabama Court of Judiciary would not occur, as the harshest punishment the Court can hand down is removal from office.

"While I do not believe I ever intentionally violated any canon of judicial ethics, I recognize that the controversy surrounding me has been disruptive and unproductive for the life of this community," Thomas said in his resignation statement.

Thomas' legal career may be over but his legal problems are still lurking. "We do have a criminal investigation going on," stated Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson.

That investigation involves allegations that Thomas removed several male prisoners from the Metro Jail and paddled them in a private closet-type area near his courtroom. In addition, a 2001 lawsuit filed by a prisoner who accused Judge Thomas of offering to provide help with the prisoner's case in return for sexual favors is also part of the investigation. The lawsuit had been dismissed soon after it was filed.

Thomas' resignation is a long fall for a judge who was recommended by Alabama's top Democrats to be appointed by President Clinton as a federal judge in Alabama. When the background check dragged on for months, Clinton never formally nominated Thomas.

For now the former judge is avoiding the media as he waits to see if sufficient facts justify criminal charges. On December 23, 2007, it was reported that forensic DNA tests had detected semen stains in the small room in Thomas' chambers where he allegedly paddled prisoners. According to unnamed sources cited by the Mobile Press-Register, the DNA samples did not belong to Thomas.

Also in December 2007, Governor Bob Riley appointed Michael A. Youngpeter to replace Thomas as a Mobile County Circuit Judge.

Sources: Associated Press,, Press-Register

* This is a corrected version of the article that originally ran in PLN.

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