Imagine this. You graduate from law school with a 4.0, the first person in your school’s history to do so. While in law school, you serve as editor-in-chief of the law review, win the moot court competition, and get a Ph.D.
You clerk for a federal appellate judge, followed by another circuit judge — this time a prominent feeder judge to the U.S. Supreme Court. You work as an associate at an elite law firm in a major city. You then return to your hometown and clerk for not one but two federal district court judges, to round out your already amazing résumé with some time in the trial court trenches.
And then you… get a Supreme Court clerkship? Or get charged with attempted aggravated rape and solicitation of a young child….
As we noted in Morning Docket, this is what appears to be happening to Thomas Haller Jackson IV of New Orleans. We heard about the accusations against him from several of his former classmates at Tulane Law School, who describe him as “a bit of a legend around Tulane Law.”
And with good reason. As noted in this profile of Haller Jackson from the Tulane Lawyer (see page 5), he graduated first in his class in 2008 with the only 4.0 GPA ever awarded, served as editor-in-chief of the Tulane Law Review, won the moot court senior appellate competition, and got a Ph.D. in infectious-disease epidemiology, focusing on HIV/AIDS.
His job history matches up to his high academic achievement. Haller Jackson summered at Cravath his 2L year, clerked for Judge Jacques Wiener of the Fifth Circuit from 2008 to 2009, and then clerked for a prominent feeder judge, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit, from 2009 to 2010. After serving his time with AK, Jackson did two stints in the chambers of Judge Ginger Berrigan in his hometown of New Orleans, interrupted by a sojourn in Los Angeles at another elite law firm, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. In June 2013, he started yet a fourth clerkship, this time for Judge Susie Morgan of New Orleans.
According to one of our sources, who went to school with Jackson, he “hoped for a SCOTUS clerkship and was bitterly disappointed when he didn’t get one.” And that dream is less likely than ever to be realized, despite Jackson’s dazzling credentials, in light of the lurid allegations just leveled against him.
On Friday, the 32-year-old Jackson pleaded not guilty in Louisiana state court to charges of attempted aggravated rape and computer solicitation of a minor younger than 13. Here are the specific allegations against Jackson, from the New Orleans Times-Picayune (via Morning Docket):
According to a police report, Jackson made contact in December with a man through GRINDR, a gay social networking smartphone application, and offered him $500 for a sexual encounter with a boy younger than 11. The other GRINDR user, whose name is not listed in the court records, sent screenshots of the conversation to the FBI.
In the following weeks, a federal agent identified in court documents as M. Allison assumed the online alias of Jackson’s GRINDR correspondent and on Dec. 30 struck up a conversation, telling Jackson that he’d found a 10-year-old boy. “Hook it up!! ” Jackson replied.
If these next allegations are true, Jackson would make a fine transactional lawyer as well as a great litigator, based on his negotiation prowess:
A few days later, Allison once again reached out to Jackson asking whether he was still interested in meeting the boy. Jackson said yes, and asked how much it would cost. “I told him u said $500 to me,” Allison told Jackson.
“As long as that’s for both of you yeah that still works,” Jackson replied, later adding that he’d lost his wallet and could pay only $200 for sex with the boy.
The new price didn’t stop the deal from going forward; the parties set up a meeting and then this happened, according to police reports:
When Jackson showed up just after 7 p.m., he called a number Allison had given him and asked for proof that the child was present. At that point, Harris took the phone and replied “Hello” in a high-pitched voice, according to court documents. As Jackson walked along the block, he called back and asked Allison to “crack the door so I can see you.”
Instead, Allison called for backup.
At about 7:25 p.m., Jackson was arrested. Authorities said they recovered four condoms, a bottle of silicon lubricant, a bottle of herbal aphrodisiacs and $216, with $200 set aside.
At least he was carrying condoms. You don’t need a Ph.D. in epidemiology to know the wisdom of using protection in random sexual encounters.
I reached out to Haller Jackson for comment, via email and Facebook message, but have not heard back from him. It could be that he is still in police custody; he has gotten caught up in a controversy between District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and Judge Frank Marullo over how bail gets set, as reported by the New Orleans Advocate. The prosecution’s view of Jackson’s initial $5,000 bail amount as too low is apparently what led the DA’s office to tack on a charge of attempted aggravated rape, even though there was no real victim — a charge that Jackson’s lawyer, Frank DeSalvo, called “ridiculous.”
It sounds like Haller Jackson is in a relatively good position, under the circumstances. Frank DeSalvo is a seasoned and successful criminal defense lawyer, and Judge Marullo is a fairly pro-defendant judge. Jackson’s father, Haller Jackson III, is a prominent Louisiana lawyer, a former president of the Shreveport Bar Association and former chair of both the Disciplinary Board and the Ethics Advisory Committee of the Louisiana State Bar Association. He should have the resources and connections to help his son mount a robust defense.
The younger Haller Jackson and I have been friendly for a number of years — we know each other through his former boss, Chief Judge Kozinski (who has had his own racy misadventures online) — and I was shocked by these allegations. Nothing I know of Haller Jackson would lead me to believe he could engage in such conduct — and I suspect that the four federal judges for whom he clerked feel the same way. He did, after all, have to pass background checks in order to obtain his multiple clerkships.
We will keep you posted on this story. If you have anything you’d like to add, please email us or text us (646-820-8477).
UPDATE (12:15 p.m.): Actually, even though Judge Marullo handled initial bail proceedings, it seems that Jackson’s case is going to Judge Keva Landrum-Johnson (who is a fellow Tulane Law alum).
UPDATE (1/14/2014, 11:30 a.m.): In response to a number of the comments, I would observe that (1) the allegations describe truly reprehensible and disgusting conduct (even though there was no actual boy involved); (2) if the allegations are true, then Haller Jackson should be punished to the full extent of the law; and (3) the sexual abuse of children is a deadly serious problem. I would have thought that (1) this all went without saying and (2) an audience composed mainly of lawyers and law students would understand the presumption of innocence. But based on some of the comments, it seems that I was wrong. Hence this update.
UPDATE (1/16/2014, 6:30 p.m.): I did not intend to cause offense with this post. Please see my apology at the end of this story.
UPDATE (1/17/2014, 3:00 p.m.): For further apologies, please see my comments to this post.
Federal judge’s law clerk denies charges of attempted rape, solicitation of a young child [New Orleans Times-Picayune via Morning Docket]
Federal law clerk charged in child rape attempt using smartphone app [New Orleans Advocate]
U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan’s law clerk charged with attempted rape and solicitation of sex from a child [Slabbed]