Judge Gets Probation For His Less-Than-Honorable Plans
Desperate times call for desperate measures, or so the saying goes. And, even judges sometimes try to avoid the law by making less-than-honorable plans to receive the information they need. Former North Carolina Superior Court Judge Arnold Ogden Jones II did just that. He is on probation after offering cases of Bud Light beer and $100 cash to an FBI task force officer in exchange for his own wife’s private text messages with a third party without having to draft the necessary search warrant. Jones was sentenced in federal court on Wednesday, May 17th, as part of a plea arrangement worked out with prosecutors earlier this year. He will also have to pay a $5,000 fine and complete 100 hours of community service, but he will avoid jail time for the crime.
Jones pleaded guilty back in March to making plans to pay gratuities to a public official after his initial conviction was overturned in February. Back in October 2016, a jury had convicted the judge of devising plans to pay a bribe to the FBI agent and attempting to influence an official proceeding under the table. Jones said he wanted to gain access to his wife’s text messages because he was fairly certain she was having an extramarital affair and he wanted to review the exchanges on her phone with the man he suspected was dating her. He wanted to do all of this without drawing too much attention.
Jones, according to prosecutors, agreed to destroy evidence of the crime in the course of laying out his plan with the agent, including a disk containing his wife’s text messages as well as any text messages coordinating the exchange of cash for the disk. Evidence presented in court also included a video of Jones exchanging the cash for the disk on the steps of the courthouse while wearing his judicial robe. Jones’ defense attorneys claimed the FBI agent led their client along because of his role in helping free those who are wrongfully convicted. He felt he had nothing to lose because of the judge’s position with the court. No text messages were ever delivered to Jones.
Jones was originally arrested at gunpoint, driven to Raleigh and led into a federal courtroom in handcuffs and shackles for his first hearing in the criminal case. The former judge, a registered Democrat who lost his bid for re-election in November partly because of the proceedings, avoided a second trial through the plea and sentencing. He was the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission chairman and a member of an FBI gang task force at the time of his arrest. His public persona was far in contradiction to his dealings behind closed doors.
“We are relieved that this ordeal is finally over,” said Joseph B. Cheshire V., a Raleigh-based lawyer who was part of the defense team. The attorney was evidently pleased his client’s troubles would be far less than they originally thought. “We are appreciative for the fair and considered sentence of the court that allows Arnie to return to the community he loves and continue his road to redemption and service.”