Caroline County Circuit Judge Jonathan Newell, 50, was pronounced dead at 6:43 a.m. Friday morning, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
FBI agents had visited Newell’s residence to arrest him on a federal criminal complaint filed on Sept. 9, 2021. When they arrived, they found him “suffering from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound,” the statement said.
Maryland State Police will lead the investigation into the apparent suicide.
Newell was facing one federal charge of sexual exploitation of a child, according to court records unsealed Friday (pdf).
According to a federal affidavit, Maryland State Police responded to a call to Newell’s cabin in Fishing Creek on Hoopers Island, Maryland, on July 23 regarding a minor who found a video camera in the cabin’s bathroom.
The minor took photos of the camera—which was facing toward the shower and flashing with a green light —and called his parents. Shortly after, police arrived and interviewed two minors.
One of the minors said the two had spent the night at the cabin, along with a man and four other boys.
Newell waived his Miranda rights and agreed to be interviewed by police, telling them that 10 “members” had access to the cabin and that they would “come and go.” He also he denied placing a camera in the bathroom, or even noticing one was there.
After the interview, he went to his bedroom to make some phone calls. While in his room, investigators said they noticed him reaching under his bed multiple times before placing his right hand in a fist to his mouth. They then heard a ” loud, distinguishable, crunch sound” from Newell’s mouth, and suspected that he may have ingested evidence because a memory card from a box with camera equipment appeared to be missing.
The following day, investigators escorted Newell to a nearby hospital for CT scans, and doctors discovered that he had ingested a metallic object, the affidavit said.
The object appeared to be an “18 mm linear possibly metallic foreign body within the small bowel,” doctors said.
Authorities executed search warrants at Newell’s cabin, truck, boat, and office and seized numerous digital devices. They also found a hard drive in a safe at Newell’s residence with numerous videos of minor boys showering. A team of forensics is currently examining all of the digital devices.
“In some of the videos, Newell is seen setting up the camera in the bathroom,” the affidavit said. Other video footage shows Newell appearing to check several of the minors’ bodies for ticks while in the bathroom. Several youths told FBI agents that Newell had checked their naked bodies for ticks when they had been to the cabin.
Newell was appointed to the Caroline County judgeship in 2016 following a “thorough vetting process” by Gov. Larry Hogan.
Before that, Newell was the county’s state attorney since 2003. He had been on leave more than a month prior to his death.
In a statement on Friday, the Maryland judiciary said it had been informed of Newell’s “sudden death” and “has no further details and is unable to provide further comment.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
September 13, 2021 9:43 am