A North Carolina judge now stripped of his robe has been sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine as part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors. Arnold Ogden Jones had pleaded guilty to charges that he tried to bribe an FBI official with beer and cash to get his wife’s text messages when he was a Wayne County judge in 2015.
“The evidence established that between October 10, 2015 and November 3, 2015, Jones gave, offered, and promised cases of beer and $100 to a Federal Bureau of Investigation Task Force Officer in contemplation of the Task Force Officer’s act of compelling Verizon to produce Jones’s wife’s text messages in order to disclose those messages to Jones, even though Jones was not permitted to receive them by law,” the Justice Department said.
The judge was convicted last year but won a new trial after the defense claimed that, among other things, it was wrongly denied a chance to show the jury alleged evidence of misconduct by the member of an FBI task who brought the bribery allegations.
The defense also claimed the task force member was biased against Jones because of his recent ruling nullifying a search warrant connected to that task force member. Jones also maintained there was an an institutional police bias against him because of his extracurricular work of trying to free wrongly convicted criminals.
Jones was originally indicted on three corruption related charges. But instead of a new trial, he pleaded guilty in March to one county of “Promising and Paying Gratuities to a Public Official,” which the government said carried a maximum two-year prison term and a $25,000 fine. He was sentenced Wednesday.
According to the indictment:
JONES asked the FBI Officer what he thought was a fair number, stating, “You tell me, I’m serious.” JONES confirmed that he did not want the FBI Officer to only obtain and deliver the text messages as a favor by stating, “No, no, no, You’ve had to take time, and I’m glad to do something. Do you follow me?” JONES and the FBI Officer initially agreed upon “a couple of cases of beer” as the amount of the payment from JONES to the FBI Officer.
Jones, a Democrat, was elected to an eight-year term on the Superior Court bench in 2008. He was the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission chairman. The commission has reviewed hundreds of innocence claims, which has paved the way for some convicts to be freed from prison.
Jones never received the text messages of his wife, who he suspected was having an affair.
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