A Maryland judge committed suicide on Friday morning, just as federal agents arrived at his Henderson home to arrest him in a child sex abuse case.
Caroline County Circuit Judge Jonathan Newell, 50, had been on leave since July after becoming embroiled in an investigation into allegations that he had a hidden camera in his bathroom that captured naked images of boys.
When FBI agents arrived at his door Friday morning to arrest him on a federal criminal complaint, they discovered him “suffering from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound,” according to the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office. At 6:43 a.m., he was pronounced dead.
“Maryland State Police will lead the investigation into the apparent suicide,” prosecutors said in a news release on Friday afternoon.
On Friday, Newell’s neighbor, Kimberly Keith, posted pictures to Facebook that appeared to show FBI agents stationed outside of the judge’s house demanding over a speaker for him to come out. She wrote that she heard sounds that she believed were gunshots, followed not long after by an ambulance.
Prosecutors said Newell committed suicide as he was about to be arrested on federal charges of child sexual exploitation. He had been on leave from his job at the courts since police raided his home on July 24, and that leave had been extended until later this month.
According to an unsealed copy of the criminal complaint, Maryland State Police investigators responded to a call in July about a minor who discovered a video camera in the bathroom of Newell’s cabin in Fishing Creek, Maryland.
Investigators spoke with two minors who claimed to have “spent the night” with Newell on July 22, when they allegedly discovered a hidden camera.
One of the boys told investigators that after undressing in the bathroom, he discovered a camera facing the shower inside a small black crate on a shelf in the bathroom’s corner.
STORY CONTINUES BELOW...
According to the documents, after telling the other boy about the camera he had discovered, the two boys went on Newell’s boat and both told their parents about the camera in the bathroom. Following that, their parents contacted law enforcement.
Another adult man and four boys had stayed overnight at the cabin and had left earlier that morning, according to the boy who discovered the camera.
Republican Caroline County, MD, Circuit Judge Jonathan Newell killed himself this morning when agents showed up at his house to arrest him on child pornography charges. He was elected at the county’s chief prosecutor from 2003-2016 before being appointed to the bench. pic.twitter.com/ZqfHgJ98sE
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) September 10, 2021
When confronted by police, Newell denied placing a camera in the bathroom or noticing the presence of a camera, stating, “Like I said, there were six other people here.”
Newell allegedly chewed and swallowed a camera memory card while being interviewed by investigators, after asking to charge his phone and then appearing to reach under his bed and take an object in his fist, which he then put in his mouth. According to the complaint, a CT scan later revealed that he had ingested a foreign, possibly metallic object.
Maryland judge who was about to be arrested by the FBI kills himself, officials say.
— The Great War & Modern Memory (@ps9714) September 12, 2021
Authorities interviewed seven other teenagers, born between 2002 and 2007, about their relationship with Newell as part of their investigation. According to the complaint, the majority of the teenagers told investigators they had known Newell for years, some since elementary school. According to the complaint, the teens described showering at Newell’s house or cabin, and nearly all of them stated that “while in the bathroom, Newell checked their bodies for ticks.”
“At least two of the males stated they were naked when Newell checked them for ticks—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,” according to the complaint.
“In some of the videos, Newell is seen setting up the camera in the bathroom,” the affidavit said, FBI interviewed several youths who said they had been to the cabin with Newell and that he had checked their naked bodies for ticks while in the bathroom."https://t.co/CNt4gS1GRe
— HumanityLover (@Mori4Real) September 11, 2021
According to the complaint, authorities executed state search warrants at Newell’s cabin and home in Henderson, Maryland, as well as his truck, boat, and office, where they discovered and seized various digital devices.
Authorities discovered a hard drive containing multiple videos of young men showering that appear to date back to September 2014, according to the titles of some of the videos, during their search. Newell is also seen arranging the camera in some of the footage. According to the complaint, Newell can also be seen in one video touching and spreading his buttocks on a young man’s naked body.
Republican Judge kills self as FBI swoops to arrest him for 'filming nude boys' https://t.co/xQapIADtl7
— Jan 6 News (@jan6news) September 12, 2021
Before his Facebook page was deactivated following the police raid, a series of posts about mentoring boys included pictures from the campaign trail, the hunting cabin, and wrestling matches, according to the Sun.
In one March 2020 post, Newell discussed an interaction with a 13-year-old neighbor during the pandemic and his belief that boys “especially need physical contact.”
— MrsH, RN 💙 #MaskUp (@voter1vote) September 12, 2021
“Ordinarily to cheer him up I would have teased him, gave 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 per the Sun. “I think boys especially need physical contact: picking, poking, plucking—its part of how they communicate with one another and show affection, even if it occasionally leads to a fight.”
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan appointed Newell, a Republican, to Caroline County’s sole circuit court in 2016. He was serving a 15-year term in that position when he committed suicide in 2018.