DENTON — Caroline County’s only circuit court judge — who was previously this rural Eastern Shore community’s top prosecutor for more than a decade — is on leave this week amid an investigation, though officials are saying little.
Jonathan G. Newell, who’s been on the bench since 2016 and served as the county’s top prosecutor for 13 years before that is not at the courthouse, and officials said judges from other jurisdictions will be handling his docket this week.
“I can say very little at this point because there’s an ongoing investigation,” said Dawn M. Becker, the court administrator. “The county court operations will not be interrupted.”
Newell was appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan. Hogan’s spokesman Michael Ricci said Wednesday that the governor’s office was aware that Newell is under investigation.
“We’ve been assured by the judiciary that he cannot hear any cases at this time,” Ricci said.
A spokeswoman for the state judiciary said Newell was on paid leave for the next two weeks, but did not have additional information.
Newell could not be reached for comment.
Rumors began swirling last weekend. Jerry Goldman, county administrator, said he was aware Newell’s absence was a source of speculation.
But, he said, “from the county’s point of view ... county operations are normal. Court operations are normal.”
Law enforcement agencies including Maryland State Police said they could not confirm or deny the existence of any investigation involving Newell.
State Sen. Stephen S. Hershey declined to comment, while a representative of Sen. Adelaide Eckardt said she was not aware of any investigation involving Newell. Both represent Caroline County in the state legislature.
Newell served two years as a public defender before becoming a deputy state’s attorney in Kent County. In 2003, he became the top prosecutor in Caroline County, a position he held until 2016 when he became a judge. He was elevated to a 15-year term in 2018.
He serves as Caroline County’s administrative judge, and its only circuit judge. There is also an appointed family magistrate judge, and civil case examiners. The county’s population is only 33,000.
The county also has one district court judge, Heather Lynn Price, who was appointed earlier this year.