A judge has resigned amid investigations of possible judicial and sexual improprieties, including allegations that he spanked male inmates in a private courthouse room.
Circuit Judge Herman Thomas had been suspended with pay since March when a state judicial panel filed the first of a series of charges accusing him of unduly helping relatives and friends with their legal troubles and taking cases away from other judges - without permission - to change the defendants' legal status or reduce sentences.
"While I do not believe that 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 a resignation statement.
After the ethics charges were filed against Thomas, allegations arose that he had removed several male inmates from jail and taken them to a private room in the courthouse, where he spanked them.
The president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People accused investigators of coercing inmates to make allegations against Thomas, who is black.
A six-year-old lawsuit also surfaced in which an inmate accused the judge of offering to provide help with inmates' cases in return for sexual favors.
"Judge Thomas categorically denies all of that," defense attorney Dave Boyd said.