October 15, 1997 in Nation/World

Fugitive Former Judge Arrested In Mexico Had Been Convicted Of Sexually Assaulting 5 Women In Courthouse

Woody Baird Associated Press
 
Tags:ethics

A former judge convicted of sexually assaulting five women in his courthouse has been arrested in Mexico after nearly two months on the run.

David Lanier, 62, was deported to the United States after his arrest Monday. He faces the rest of his 25-year prison sentence for the assaults and could get another five years for evading arrest.

Lanier had been on the run since Aug. 22, when he failed to surrender to federal authorities while the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati reconsidered his appeal. He fled to Mexico a week before the deadline for turning himself in, federal officials said.

Last month, Lanier called a newspaper in his hometown of Dyersburg, Tenn., complained he was the victim of a government conspiracy and said, “The dogs aren’t going to find me.”

But Monday, Lanier was captured at a post office in Ensenada, Mexico, where he had planned to pick up a shipment of blank identification cards, according to deputy marshal Tommy Thompson.

Lanier is being held in California, where he will begin serving the remainder of his sentence.

Lanier was convicted in 1992 of violating the civil rights of five women who had legal matters before him or worked at his courthouse in Dyersburg, 80 miles north of Memphis.

Most of the victims said he had grabbed their breasts or buttocks and repeatedly had pressured them for sex. One woman, who had a child custody case before Lanier, said he had attacked her in his chambers.

Lanier was convicted under a 19th-century civil rights law generally used to prosecute police officers, prison guards and others who have direct custody of their victims. He was the first judge convicted under that law.

Lanier began his prison sentence in 1993, but the appellate court set him free in 1995 while it considered his appeal. It overturned his conviction last year, saying there was no specific U.S. Supreme Court decision making his actions a constitutional violation.

The case then went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which told the 6th Circuit to reconsider its ruling. Lanier was ordered to surrender Aug. 22. After he failed to show up, the appellate court threw out his appeal.

Though Lanier became a fugitive in August, he had planned his flight much earlier, Thompson said. “He assumed a new identity about eight months before he actually became a fugitive,” he said.

Authorities found Lanier had traveled throughout the country and abroad during his two years of freedom, apparently looking for places to hide should he need one. He began using the name Aubrey L. Thompson and established himself in San Diego.

While searching for Lanier, authorities kept watch on several of his associates. Last month, one of them received a receipt for certified mail from a Chicago company that makes ID cards and other documents.

Authorities checked with the company and found it had mailed an order of blank ID cards to Aubrey L. Thompson’s post office box in Mexico.

Mexican authorities staked out the post office and grabbed Lanier.

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