An Eastern Carolina judge is charged with trying to bribe an FBI agent to collect text messages between two phone numbers in what the judge said was a family matter.
Federal prosecutors on Wednesday announced the charges against Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones II. Jones is the resident superior judge for Wayne County, and is chairman of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission.
The judge appeared in federal court in Raleigh for a first court appearance this morning.
It's illegal for law officers to demand text or phone information from a phone company without an approved search warrant in an active case.
Prosecutors say Jones approached the unnamed FBI officer on October 10th and the two met in Goldsboro on Tuesday to exchange $100 for a disk supposedly containing the data.
The three count indictment was made public this morning. The charges against Jones are: promise/payment of bribe to a public official, promise/payment of gratuity to a public official, and attempted corrupt influence of official proceeding.
The indictment says at first the judge and the FBI officer agreed on "a couple cases of beer" for obtaining the texts.
If convicted of all charges, Jones could face up to 37 years in prison.
A state courts spokeswoman says it would be up to the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission to take any disciplinary action against Jones.
Lawyers at the Wayne County Courthouse said that superior court was cancelled today.
The judge, who was first elected in 2008, has heard some high profile cases in the past several years, including presiding over the first appearance of the suspect in the shooting death at Wayne Community College. The defendant was forcibly removed from the courtroom after a profane outburst directed at the judge.