MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A former Mobile jail inmate testified Wednesday that then-Circuit Judge Herman Thomas spanked his bare bottom severely three times, rubbed it once and, on another occasion, grabbed his crotch while clothed.
Under questioning by Thomas' attorneys, the former inmate also said the judge found him a job, which he never reported to, and got him into a drug treatment program, which he fled.
Thomas, 48, is in the second week of a trial accusing him of severely paddling or sexually abusing 14 present and former inmates in return for leniency. He is charged with kidnapping, extortion, sodomy, sex abuse and assault.
He resigned in 2007, ending a 17-year judicial career, after being accused of violating judicial rules for judges.
The witness Wednesday said Thomas took him to his home, where he met the former judge's family, and invited him to attend ball games and play tennis. He said he refused those invitations because he didn't want to be seen with the judge.
"I didn't want to appear in public with him — period," the man said
The Associated Press does not normally use the names of victims of alleged sexual abuse.
The former inmate, now 26, started getting into trouble at 12 and ran up a string of offenses, including assault, drug possession, drunken driving and giving a false name to police.
His mother testified that her son told her about Thomas getting him out of the county jail and taking him to a private courthouse office for the first spanking.
"I didn't believe it at the time," said the woman, who attended Mobile County schools with Thomas.
She said Thomas would help her son with his legal problems and probation violations and helped her get a job in the control room at the county jail in 2002. In that job, she said she recorded the dates where he came to the jail and checked out four male inmates.
She said she eventually told a co-worker about her son's spanking, and the co-worker reported it to Thomas. Then, she said, Thomas called her about her son and said "that he would never help him again."
Defense attorney Robert "Cowboy Bob" Clark portrayed the former inmate as someone who would say anything to improve his standing in the legal system. He brought out records showing that the man initially refused to talk to investigators while he was still in prison for drug possession in 2007.
The man said he refused because he was still under Thomas' jurisdiction and was afraid what would happen.
"I wasn't playing the system. The system was playing me," he said.