NC Superior Court judge arrested on bribery, corruption charges
Posted November 4, 2015 10:01 a.m. EST
Updated November 4, 2015 4:48 p.m. EST
RALEIGH, N.C. — A North Carolina Superior Court judge is charged with trying to bribe an FBI officer 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 Judge Arnold Jones II, who hears cases in three rural eastern North Carolina counties – Wayne, Lenoir and Greene – and is chairman of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission.
The judge had his first court appearance Wednesday and was released with general probation requirements, including restrictions on travel and having firearms. His next court date has not been set.
Jones faces a maximum of 37 years in federal prison if convicted of all charges, prosecutors said, but a sentence that long would be unlikely. 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.
Elliot Abrams, a Raleigh defense attorney, says the charges and the threat of federal prison are excessive.
"In my mind, if you go to a friend who's an FBI agent and it's illegal, the FBI agent should say, 'I can't do that. It's illegal,'" Abrams said.
"There's a number of less serious crimes that could have been charged here that may have been more appropriate."
Prosecutors say Jones approached the unidentified FBI officer a month ago, and the two met in Goldsboro on Tuesday to exchange $100 for a disk supposedly containing the text messages. Jones initially offered to give the officer "a couple cases of beer" for his help but later agreed to $100 in cash.
Jones is charged with promising and paying a bribe to a public official, promising and paying a gratuity to a public official and corruptly attempting to influence an official proceeding, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Jones was a private attorney in Goldsboro for 18 years before being elected to the Superior Court in 2008. He earned degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Wake Forest University law school.