North Carolina judge convicted of bribing FBI agent with ‘2 cases of beer’ to spy on his wife
Jurors unanimously agreed Friday that Superior Court Judge Arnold O Jones II was guilty of paying a bribe to a public official, promising and paying a gratuity to a public official, and corruptly attempting to influence an official proceeding.
The verdict wraps up a nearly year-long trial for Judge Jones. In October 2015, Jones reached out to an FBI Task Force Officer, asking him to use his connections to compel Verizon to provide copies of some text messages exchanged between two people.
Jones told the officer, whom he thought of as his friend, that it was “just for [him]” and “involve[d] family members” and so he did not want anyone to know about his favor. It later appeared that the “two people” were the judge’s wife and her friend.
“I want down low – see what you can do without drawing attention,” he wrote to the agent, when he said that he “lacked probable cause” to get those messages.
The FBI can only access such records with a warrant from a federal magistrate based on suspicion of criminal activity, but the agent said he would try to get the messages if Jones really wanted them.
The judge promised that no one would ever find out about that and that the officer could trust him “one million percent.”
Just over two weeks following their first talk, the two discussed the officer’s reward.
“No, no, no, you’ve had to take time and I’m glad to do something,” Jones said, according to his redacted indictment, now released on PACER. “Do you follow me?” he said.
They ended up agreeing on “a couple of cases of beer” as the FBI’s officer’s “paycheck.” In November 2015, Jones also suggested $100 in cash, on top of the cases of beer, and paid them the day the FBI officer handed him over a disk with the desired messages.
“The evidence in the case concluded with a video of JONES exchanging the cash and disk on the steps of the Wayne County Courthouse in his judicial robe,” the US Department of Justice said in a press release.
Details of Jones’ arrest have not been public, but according to the News & Observer, the judge was taken in custody after a “SWAT-team-like raid” on his Wayne County home. Jones’ defense has been saying that he had never been told by the FBI officer that his request could result in a search warrant.
“The jury’s verdict affirms a bedrock principle of the rule of law,” John Bruce, the acting US Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, said in a statement afterward. “No person holding a position of public trust in our legal system is permitted to subvert that system for his own personal objectives.”
Sentencing in Jones’ case has been set for January 23.
On the charge of bribery, Jones faces no more than 15 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. The charge of gratuities carries a possible term of not more than two years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. The charge of attempting to corruptly influence an official proceeding could land Jones in jail for as many as 20 years behind bars and require him to pay up to $250,000.