After several days of jury selection, the Herman Thomas trial finally got underway Friday in Alabama. The former Mobile County Circuit judge is a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" who had sex with jail inmates in return for leniency while claiming to "straighten" out their lives, said Chief Assistant District Attorney Nicki Patterson in opening arguments, reports the Mobile Press-Register.
"The defendant's perversions led him to abuse those very young men he was so publicly mentoring and helping," Patterson said. Thomas would pick men without fathers in their lives and who were in need of help, Patterson said, sometimes checking them out of jail. Using the judges' secure elevator, he brought the men to an eighth-floor office with a glass panel that had been covered with paper, she said.
Inside, she said, Thomas told the young men to strip down and be paddled, or be sent back to jail. During the spankings, some of the men turned around to see Thomas masturbating or having an "obvious erection in his pants," Patterson said. Patterson said Thomas also ordered men to masturbate or engage in oral sex with him. As Patterson detailed Thomas' alleged indiscretions, Thomas' wife looked on.
Once the Democratic Party's choice to be the first black federal judge in south Alabama, the now-disbarred Thomas is accused of sexually abusing or assaulting at least 14 current or former inmates while serving on the bench from 1999 to 2007. Thomas faces 70 charges of charges of kidnapping, sodomy, extortion and sex abuse. Thomas is also accused of having cases pulled from other judges' dockets and placed on his own.
Thomas had been indicted on 80+ charges in connection with 15 alleged victims. Two days ago, the state asked to dismiss one case. At the same time prosecutors announced they have at least two separate semen samples.
WKRG reports this about the mostly black jury: "The jury is made up of eight men and eight women. It is unusual because the panel includes four alternates. None of the jurors know who is an alternate."
JUMP to watch WKRG's report on the opening arguments.