An Eastern Shore judge under investigation for sexual exploitation and child pornography acted alone and is not believed to have distributed photos he allegedly took, the U.S. Attorney for Maryland’s office said Wednesday.
Caroline County Circuit Court Judge Jonathan Newell killed himself on Sept. 10 as federal, state and local law enforcement agencies descended on his home to arrest him.
Following his death, those same agencies continued to investigate to determine the number of children potentially involved.
“Investigators have determined that there were no other individuals involved in the alleged exploitation and that Newell did not distribute any of the images,” according to a statement issued by U.S. Attorney for Maryland Erek L. Barron.
Newell had been under investigation since July 23 after two teen boys not related to Newell reported finding a camera hidden in the bathroom of the judge’s cabin, according to a federal complaint unsealed in September. The judge took weeks of paid and unpaid leave as rumors swirled about an investigation involving child pornography.
During that investigation by Maryland State Police, Newell allegedly attempted to destroy a camera memory card by eating it, according to federal court records.
Investigators obtained a warrant and took Newell to a nearby hospital. There, a CT scan revealed a metallic object inside his small bowel.
The judge’s alleged activities drew the attention of police after a boy reported finding a camera in a bathroom of a cabin Newell used.
During one of those trips to the cabin, one of the boys said he found a camera hidden in a black crate in a bathroom adjacent to Newell’s bedroom. The lens was pointed at the shower.
The boy told police he took photos of the camera with his cellphone. He saw a green blinking green light on the camera and put it back on the shelf and left the bathroom, according to the complaint.
The first boy showed the second the object before the two departed for a trip on Newell’s boat. During that trip, police said, the boys contacted their parents to tell them about the camera. The parents called police.
Police arrived at Newell’s cabin the same day. The judge waived his rights and agreed to an interview.
During the investigation, police found additional hard drives with videos.
Some of the videos show teen boys showering. Others contained videos of what some victims described as “tick checks” performed by Newell, the complaint said.
In the videos Newell can be seen checking nude teen boys for ticks, in one kneeling in front of a boy and directing him to lift his genitalia. Newell is also seen spreading the buttocks of at least one boy during these checks, according to the complaint.
In all, police interviewed seven boys ranging in age between 14 and 18 years old. Most said they had known Newell since elementary school. Nearly all of the boys told investigators about the tick checks.