RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina Superior Court Judge Arnold Ogden Jones, II was arrested Wednesday morning and charged with promising and paying a bribe to a public official, the United States Attorney’s Office announced.
Jones is also charged with promising and paying a gratuity to a public official and corruptly attempting to influence an official proceeding, U.S. Attorney Thomas G. Walker confirmed.
Jones is the Senior Resident Superior Court Judge of District 8-B in Wayne County.
Jones is scheduled to make his first court appearance at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Raleigh.
On Oct. 10, Jones sent a text message to an FBI officer requesting that he “get access to text messages exchanged between 2 numbers and get copies of those messages,” documents showed.
Jones offered to pay the FBI officer for copies of the text messages. He indicated that the text messages were “just for him” and they “involved family.”
Law enforcement officers cannot get copies of text messages without a search warrant. A magistrate judge will not issue a search warrant unless there is probable cause to believe that the records associated with the phone numbers contain evidence of a crime.
On Oct. 19, the FBI officer told Jones that he lacked probable cause to get the text messages. Jones told the FBI officer that “this involves family so I don’t want anyone to know.”
Then on Oct, 27, Jones met with the FBI officer because the officer wanted to make sure he had the right numbers. According to documents, Jones told the officer his involvement would “never come out.”
During the meeting, the two also discussed the officer’s fee. Jones made it clear he didn’t want this be just a favor stating, “No, no, no, you’ve had to take time and I’m glad to do something.” Jones and the FBI Officer agreed on “a couple of cases of beer” as payment, but later decided to also pay the officer $100 cash.
The following day, the FBI officer informed Jones that he had obtained the text messages and Jones agreed to shred the disk as soon as possible because the disk was acquired from an FBI computer.
Jones was the judge who presided over the Kenneth Stancil case earlier this year. Stancil was charged with shooting and killing a Wayne Community College faculty member in April.
The charges against Jones could begin the process of disciplinary proceedings with the state’s Judicial Standards Commission.
A complaint could be filed with the commission, or the commission can initiate an investigation itself.
The commission has the option of recommending the Supreme Court immediately suspend a judge while it carries out its investigation.
Potential actions by the Supreme Court could include anything from a public reprimand to removal from office.
Michael Crowell, an attorney and former UNC law professor who’s studied judicial conduct issues, notes it’s rare for the court to remove a judge. He points out that’s happened nine times since the early 1970s.
“Although this will get a lot publicity, it’s atypical,” said Crowell. “It may well be the Chief Justice and his administrative assistant might just decide not to assign the judge for a while.”
Crowell says it’s common when a judicial officer is convicted or pleads guilty to a crime that that person agrees not to run for office again.