The Circuit Court Judge for Caroline County - Judge Jonathan G. Newell, who spent over a decade putting offenders behind bars before being appointed to the bench in 2016 by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, was placed on a two-week leave of absence. Various press reports state that the leave of absence is due to an investigation by the Maryland State Police.
The feds were at the judge’s Henderson home to arrest him on a complaint charging him with sexual exploitation of a child for allegedly filming teenage boys in the nude in his hunting cabin. Judge Newell had been on leave since July 2021, after one of several boys that the judge had brought on a hunting trip on Hoopers Island discovered a hidden camera in the bathroom and called his parents, according to court documents obtained by the Sun. At least two of the boys told investigators that Newell checked them for ticks when they were naked.
“One stated that he moved his own genitalia for Newell to look for ticks, and the other initially did not recall if Newell touched his genitalia, but later stated that Newell once or twice moved the minor’s genitalia to look for ticks,” FBI Special Agent Rachel Corn wrote in the complaint.
Agents raided Newell’s home, truck, and law office, and said they found a hard drive in his den that contained numerous videos of naked young men showering. Newell was captured on the footage setting the camera up and in one clip, could be seen searching a naked young man for ticks.
Newell denied setting up the camera — but investigators said they caught him trying to chew up and swallow a memory card when he was first confronted with the allegations.
Swallowed the Evidence
“The investigator heard a loud, distinguishable, ‘crunch,’ sound from the area of Newell’s mouth,” the FBI wrote in charging documents.
“After another minute or two, the investigator heard the same ‘crunch’ again from Newell’s mouth, followed by Newell immediately reaching for and drinking from a cup located on his dresser.”
Investigators forced Newell to take a CT scan at a nearby hospital, which revealed a “foreign object” believed to be the missing memory card from the camera.
Newell was not charged at the time. Dorchester County State’s Attorney William H. Jones, whose office was one of the multiple agencies involved in the case, told The Sun that investigators moved “as quickly as possible.”
“A lot of time and effort and man hours went into investigating this as quickly as possible with an attempt to bring it to resolution,” Jones said. “There was a lot of evidence, and that evidence takes time to analyze.”
FBI, Maryland State Police, and Caroline County Sheriff’s Office surrounded Judge Jonathan Newell’s house on Westbridge Court in rural Henderson, Md., in Caroline County on Friday, September 10, 2021, just after 6 a.m., and announced to the Judge that he was under arrest and demanded he comes out over a loudspeaker, according to neighbors, in various reports.
Keith, Newell’s neighbor, said her husband woke her up around 6:10 a.m. and noticed police cars outside the Newell home. She heard the FBI, over a loudspeaker, saying, “Jonathan, come out, put your hands up.”
She said agents approached the door, and she heard a loud bang followed by two loud bangs a few minutes later.
“Next thing I knew, they were in the house,” she said.
Keith said rumors about the ongoing investigation were “very well known around here.” Before the investigation, Keith said she found Newell’s Facebook posts to be “very odd.”
“All he ever posted on Facebook was about boys,” she said.
Before his page was deactivated following the police raid, Newell’s page contained many posts about mentoring boys. They included pictures from the campaign trail, the hunting cabin, and wrestling matches.
In March 2020, he posted about bumping into a 13-year-old neighbor during the pandemic.
“Ordinarily to cheer him up I would have teased him, given him a pat on the shoulder, mussed up his sweaty hair, maybe even sent him on his way with a little swat on the butt,” Newell wrote. “I think boys especially need physical contact: picking, poking, plucking — it's part of how they communicate with one another and show affection, even if it occasionally leads to a fight.”
“Over the last two decades, I’ve helped raise a couple of dozen kids, and their parents have helped raise my two boys — hauling sweaty kids back from ball fields and bass ponds, patching up skinned knees, and pulling ticks out of armpits, refereeing pickup games and cranking out stacks of pancakes. They turned out to be some pretty decent human beings.”
When the agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation entered the residence of Jonathan Newell, age 50, of Henderson, Maryland, to arrest him on a federal criminal complaint filed on September 9, 2021, agents found Newell suffering from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at 6:43 a.m.
A federal criminal complaint was signed on September 9, 2021, and unsealed on September 10, 2021, that charged Jonathan Newell with sexual exploitation of a minor to produce child pornography. Following Newell’s suicide on September 10, 2021, the investigation continued. Investigators have determined that there were no other individuals involved in the alleged exploitation and that Newell did not distribute any of the images.