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Investigation of Caroline County judge centered on illicit images of children, mother of alleged victim says

The prolonged absence from the bench of Caroline County’s only circuit court judge was sparked by a discovery of a camera in the bathroom of a hunting lodge by a boy the judge had taken there on a trip, according to the boy’s parents.

Judge Jonathan Newell, who was the county’s top prosecutor for 13 years, has been on an unexplained paid leave of absence since July 26, with police keeping details under wraps.

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But the parents of one boy interviewed by investigators confirmed details of the genesis of the investigation to The Baltimore Sun. A law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation confirmed that it includes allegations of illicit images of youth.

“He took advantage of their trust,” said the boy’s mother, who asked for anonymity to protect her son’s identity.

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The parents have retained attorneys, who issued a “no contact” request to Newell on Aug. 4. The letter indicated more than one boy, citing “information and belief ... that you have engaged in criminal conduct” involving two boys. It asks that he stay away from the boys’ school and associated events, and warns that any contact will result in them contacting Maryland State Police for “potential witness tampering.”

Attorneys Andrew Jezic and Thomas Morrow have been retained to represent Newell and responded in a letter to the parents that he had “no intention” of contacting the boys and would “exercise his best efforts” to avoid the school and events.

“He has not nor would he engage in witness tampering,” they wrote in response.

Jezic did not respond to a request for comment Friday; earlier in the week he and Morrow declined to comment.

Newell is Caroline County’s only Circuit Court judge, and earns $174,433 annually. The county, population 33,000, also has an appointed family magistrate judge, and civil case examiners. Judges from other jurisdictions have been filling in to hear Newell’s docket, the judiciary has said.

The Republican served 13 years as the county’s state’s attorney, and after being appointed to the bench in 2016 was elevated to a 15-year term in 2018.

Neighbors told the Easton Star-Democrat that Newell’s home was raided July 24.

Before it was taken down, Newell’s Facebook page was mostly posts that featured him talking about the importance of mentoring youth. In one post, he is shown with who are described as teenage campaign volunteers out for pizza. Other posts showed him at wrestling matches and out hunting with boys.

Newell has two children of his own. He and his wife filed for divorce in August of last year.

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