Sunday, October 4, 2009
(10-04) 09:23 PDT Montgomery, Ala. (AP) --
Herman Thomas had an enviable political record as a black Democrat elected and re-elected in a county overwhelmingly white and increasingly Republican. The respected circuit judge once was the Democratic Party's choice to be the first black federal judge in south Alabama.
Then his career collapsed under allegations that he brought inmates to his office and spanked them with a paddle. Later, an indictment accused him of sexually abusing male inmates in exchange for leniency. The trial on charges of sodomy, kidnapping, sex abuse, extortion, assault and ethics violations is set to start Monday.
The case has shocked his friends and former colleagues.
"I've always had the highest regard for him. The allegations were a complete surprise to me and everyone else who knew him," said Bob Edington, a prominent Mobile attorney and former Democratic state senator.
Some inmates in those cases described being checked out of the jail for meetings with Thomas in his car or in his private office in the county courthouse. First, there were reports of inmates having to pull down their underwear for spankings with a wooden paddle. Then came allegations of oral and anal sex, according to court records.