The Washington Post

Judge accused of eating investigat­ion evidence reportedly commits suicide

Jonathan Newell used camera to record boys showering, FBI alleges

- BY DAN MORSE Alice Crites contribute­d to this report.

A Maryland judge accused of using a hidden video camera to record children in a bathroom at his fishing cabin died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot Friday as federal agents were moving in to arrest him, authoritie­s said on Friday.

Jonathan Gray Newell, 50, served as a circuit court judge in Caroline County on the state’s Eastern Shore. Criminal records unsealed this week revealed that when Newell was first questioned by investigat­ors at his cabin in July, he was allowed to go to his bedroom to ostensibly charge his mobile phone but instead is alleged to have ingested an SD memory card he had furtively removed from the camera.

“The investigat­or heard a loud, distinguis­hable, ‘crunch,’ sound from the area of Newell’s mouth,” an FBI agent wrote in a criminal complaint. “After another minute or two, the investigat­or heard the same ‘ crunch’ again from Newell’s mouth, followed by Newell immediatel­y reaching for and drinking from a cup located on his dresser.”

The next day, armed with a warrant for CT scans of Newell’s abdomen and pelvis, investigat­ors escorted the judge to a nearby hospital. The images taken were described in a medical report cited in the FBI complaint: “18 mm linear possibly metallic foreign body within the small bowel. Diagnosis: Foreign Body


No further details about the SD card were stated in the complaint.

Federal authoritie­s briefly described how the judge died Friday morning as FBI agents closed in: “Upon entering the residence, the agents found Newell suffering from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound,” said a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland. “He was pronounced dead at 6:43 a.m.”

Family members for Newell could not be reached or declined to comment Friday.

That office, as well as the Maryland State Police, which is investigat­ing the incident, declined to comment further.

Joseph Riley, the top prosecutor in Caroline County, confirmed the judge’s death was self-inflicted.

“This case is no longer about investigat­ions and charges,” he said in a statement. “In my opinion, it is about supporting the families involved and helping our community heal.”

Born in Chestertow­n, Md., Newell earned a philosophy degree from Washington College and a law degree from the Washington & Lee University School of Law, according to state records. He served as public defender in Caroline County, a prosecutor in Kent County and then, in 2003, became the top prosecutor in Caroline County.

He served that post for about 14 years.

“Newell focused on felony drug, sex offense and child abuse cases, plus a dozen murder cases,” wrote the Times Record of Denton, Md.

He became a judge in 2016. Newell also spent time at a cabin in Fishing Creek, Md., and sometimes hosted juvenile guests overnight, according to court records.

The morning of July 23, a teenage boy — approximat­ely 15 — entered a bathroom adjacent to Newell’s bedroom to shower. He noticed what appeared to be a little camera, with a green blinking light, on a corner shelf tucked inside a small black utility crate, records state. The boy took pictures of it with his cellphone, according to the records.

He went to find another teen to tell him about the camera. That’s when he saw Newell go into the bathroom and retreat to his bedroom with several items in his hand, according to the FBI criminal complaint.

The boys went into the bathroom and the camera was gone.

A brief time later, each teen called his parents, telling them about the camera.

“Their parents then contacted law enforcemen­t,” the FBI wrote.

Investigat­ors arrived the same day.

“This case is no longer about investigat­ions and charges. In my opinion, it is about supporting the families involved and helping our community heal.” Joseph Riley, top prosecutor in Caroline County, Md.

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