A former Oklahoma judge convicted of exposing himself by using a sexual device while presiding over trials is not eligible to receive the retirement benefits from his 23-year career on the bench, the state's highest court ruled Tuesday.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court's unanimous ruling in the case involving former Creek County District Judge Donald Thompson means he won't receive the gross monthly retirement payment of $7,789.51 to which he would have been entitled.
Thompson served about 20 months in prison after being found guilty in 2006 of four felony counts of indecent exposure for using a device called a penis pump while presiding over trials. Thompson denied the accusations and claimed the device was a gag gift.
"Those felonies violated Mr. Thompson's oath of office," Justice James Winchester wrote in the court's opinion. "This uncontested evidence presented by (the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System) is sufficient to support forfeiture."
Thompson's attorney, Clark Brewster, argued the convictions should have resulted only in the forfeiture of the retirement benefits accrued during his final term in office, which began in 2002.
"Each time you run for office, it's a new office," Brewster told The Associated Press. "It was our position that you couldn't go back to previous terms of office and take away those benefits."
The high court determined that interpretation of the statute would unfairly benefit state officials who were elected to multiple terms in office.
"We see no reason to believe the Legislature intended such a disproportionate penalty between state employees and state officers for violation of their oaths of office," Winchester wrote.
The retirement system's Board of Trustees ruled in 2009 that Thompson's felony convictions required the forfeiture of his retirement benefits. That ruling was appealed to the Oklahoma County District Court, which upheld the board's ruling. Thompson appealed the district court's ruling to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
The court's ruling did not affect Thompson's own contributions to his pension or the retirement benefits that he received during his six years as a state legislator from 1974 to 1980. The forfeiture statute was passed by the Legislature in 1981 and was not retroactive.
Sean Murphy can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy