Former county commissioner admits to explicit messages, photos

Published 3:03 pm Friday, February 5, 2016

Former Shelby County commissioner Leon Archer, the current Tallapoosa County probate judge, recently admitted to sending sexually explicit messages and photos via social media. (Contributed)

Former Shelby County commissioner Leon Archer, the current Tallapoosa County probate judge, recently admitted to sending sexually explicit messages and photos via social media. (Contributed)

By MITCH SNEED / Alexander City Outlook

ALEX CITY – Former Shelby County Commissioner and current Tallapoosa County Probate Court Judge Leon Archer admitted Friday that he had sent sexually explicit conversations via social media messenger that included suggestive language, photos and propositions for sexual acts.

A 37-year-old female Facebook friend, who asked that her name not be used, provided electronic copies of her conversations with Archer.

The online conversations began in early January and escalated from friendly banter to sexually suggestive requests in a matter of days, according to time stamps on the messages.

Archer, who has been married for 47 years, apologized for his “very poor judgment.”

“I’m not going to lie about it or deny it,” Archer said after viewing prints of the messages Friday.  “I’m not a perfect man and I have done a lot of things that I am not proud of and this may be one of the worst. I got caught up while on social media with my language and pictures going back and forth. It got out of hand and I should have known better.

“This shows a lapse of judgment – very poor judgment. Being a judge, I should be above that and adhere to a higher standard. I feel like I have voided that trust.”

The messages are from Archer’s Facebook account, which features his official probate court judge portrait. One message even includes the offer of money if the woman were to meet with him.

“What you got going today … I got some money I need to spend,” Archer’s messaged read.

Archer has apparently shut down his Facebook account over the weekend.

Employees at the Probate Office in Dadeville said that Archer had not been in the office as of Wednesday afternoon. They said that it has remained business as usual and that there have been only a few visitors who have asked about the situation.

Archer, who last year discontinued officiating marriages at the courthouse when he cited moral objections to same sex marriages, never said specifically what he wanted to spend the money on, which is a legal requirement to the crime known as soliciting for prostitution.

The woman said when money was mentioned, she felt the banter had gone from funny to insulting.

“We had been friends on Facebook for about seven months, but until earlier this month there was nothing like this,” the woman said. “I’m not innocent in this, I mean at first I figured he was just a lonely, nice man who wanted to talk. As the messages got suggestive, I couldn’t believe it, but I didn’t end it. I honestly thought it was funny in a weird way. But when he started talking about money, like I was a prostitute, that’s when it hit me.”

In messages from Archer’s account, the judge’s personal cell phone number was sent to the woman and in some conversations he as asked her to call him at his office. Those requests came during normal office hours at the Tallapoosa County Probate Office.

A picture of Archer, dressed in a T-shirt, is also included in one messenger exchange. A photo of a man nude below the waist was also sent to the woman from Archer’s cell phone number. The background in the picture closely resembles the bathroom tile in the Tallapoosa County Courthouse.

In one exchange, a message from Archer’s account made repeated requests for a nude picture of the woman below the waist. After making several excuses and trying to stave off the request, the woman said she sent him a picture she found on the Internet of someone else.

“I did send him a picture, but it wasn’t me,” the woman said. “I admit that I did talk to him and respond. I guess I could have just ended it and unfriended him, but he is an elected official – a judge. I couldn’t believe that he was doing this and wanted to just see how far he would go. I mean some of the stuff he was saying, I had to look it up. There were some pretty strange things he wanted.”

The woman even asked Archer: “Is it illegal for someone who holds elected county office to ask for sexual favors in exchange for money and ask the person to call their private line while they are at work?”

The return message from Archer read: “Not if you call their personal cell #.”

Archer said he is sorry for the embarrassment his actions will cause others.

“I have apologized to her and I am sorry for being lead into this embarrassing situation,” Archer said.  “I’m sorry for the embarrassment this will bring on people who mean so much to me.”

Archer said he first met the woman a few years ago when she was in his court over a situation involving her then husband. Archer said he did become friends with her over social media, but did not have any face-to-face contact with her, only via electronic conversations.

Archer was first elected on Nov. 6, 2012 to serve a six-year term. Archer previously served as a county commissioner in Shelby County. Archer also had a failed run for the District 4 seat on the Tallapoosa County Commission in 2010.

Archer said his mistake should serve as a lesson to everyone about social media.

“Don’t just accept someone’s request to be your friend,” Archer said. “When conversing with someone, one needs to be careful in your wording that goes back and forth. Pictures sent are there forever. Again, this is something I will have to live with the rest of my life.

“I should have known better, but I can’t take it back. All that I can do at this point is ask my wife of 47 years, my children, my church family, friends and the people of Tallapoosa County to forgive me.

“I am sorry and I apologize.”