Local judge, a WC alum, dead; under investigation for sexual exploitation

By Erica Quinones

Washington College alumnus and Caroline County Circuit Court Judge Jonathan Gray Newell ’92 was found deceased by an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound on the morning of Sept. 10. He was found by FBI agents who arrived at his home to arrest him on a federal criminal complaint of alleged child sexual exploitation, according to Natalie Jones in the Star Democrat.

Newell was born in Chestertown, Md. He graduated from WC with a bachelor’s in philosophy before attending Washington & Lee University School of Law. He was the state’s attorney in Caroline County from January 2003 to August 2016 when he became the county administrative judge of Caroline County Circuit Court. Newell served in that position until his death, according to his Maryland State Archives profile.

The federal claim against Newell was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland on Sept. 9 and made public on Sept. 10. 

The complaint alleges that Newell hosted two minor boys in his cabin in Fishing Creek, Md. on July 22 and 23, 2021. The minors were born in 2006 and 2007. According to the younger minor — identified as “Minor Victim 1” in the complaint — another adult male and four minor boys also stayed the night in the cabin.

After spending the night in Newell’s cabin, Minor Victim 1 entered the bathroom adjacent to Newell’s bedroom to shower, according to the complaint. There he saw what appeared to be a camera on a shelf in the corner of the bathroom, sitting under a small black utility crate. Upon examination, he found that the camera’s lens was facing the shower and it had a green blinking light.

After taking photos of the camera with his cell phone, he returned it to its original spot and left the bathroom, according to the complaint. 

Minor Victim 1 then found the other boy — who is identified as “Minor Victim 2” in the complaint — and informed him of the camera. Shortly after he left the bathroom, Minor Victim 1 saw Newell enter the bathroom, leave it with miscellaneous items, and enter his bedroom. 

Both boys returned to the bathroom, where they discovered the camera was gone.

After the incident, both boys called their parents, who contacted law enforcement, according to the complaint. 

The Maryland State Police arrived at Newell’s cabin on the same day where they found Newell present. He waived his Miranda rights and consented to an interview, during which Newell denied placing a camera in the bathroom, noticing a camera in the bathroom, or having seen the camera when presented with the picture that Minor Victim 1 took. 

After the interview concluded, the complaint alleges that Newell was permitted to enter his bedroom to charge his phone and make a phone call. While Newell spoke on the phone, investigators observed him reach under the bed “on more than one occasion.” 

An investigator noticed that Newell’s right hand — which he’d used to reach beneath the bed — was closed in a fist. While Newell was talking on the phone, he placed his right fist against his mouth, began speaking quietly, and eventually a “loud, distinguishable, ‘crunch,’ sound came from the area of Newell’s mouth,” according to the complaint. 

The same sound was heard again a couple minutes later, followed by Newell drinking from a cup that was located on the dresser. 

The investigators asked Newell to leave the bedroom. He ended the call, walked away from the bed, and investigators observed an object beneath the bed that was similar to the camera that was photographed by Minor Victim 1. 

After asking to retrieve his cell phone charger, Newell then re-entered the bedroom, knelt down, and removed the camera from beneath his bed. According to the complaint, he “advised the second investigator something similar to: ‘This is what you are looking for,’ and placed the box [camera] on top of the bedroom dresser.” Investigators found that the SD card was missing from the camera.

Newell was escorted to a nearby hospital on July 24, 2021 with a warrant to obtain a CT scan of his chest and abdomen/pelvis. The CT scan found an impression of an “18 mm linear, possibly metallic foreign body” within Newell’s small bowel. It concluded that there was “Foreign Body Ingestion.”

Since the July incident, seven additional males — all of whom were born between 2002 and 2007 — were interviewed regarding their relationship with Newell. Although one young man is currently 18 years old, all interviewees said they visited the cabin on at least one occasion as a minor. Two interviewees said they were naked with Newell as he checked them for ticks. 

Further state search warrants regarding Newell’s cabin, residence, truck, boat, and office were executed, seizing numerous digital devices from the various locations. 

According to the complaint, the forensic examination of the digital devices is currently ongoing. However, the examination of an external hard drive that was stored in a safe within Newell’s residence found numerous videos of minor males showering. Newell is seen setting up the camera in the bathroom on some of the videos. 

The complaint concludes that there is probable cause to believe that Newell violated 18 U.S.C. §2251(a) — Sexual Exploitation of a Child. 

While the complaint found probable cause, it is not a formal finding of guilt, according to the Star Democrat, as the defendant is innocent until proven guilty in criminal proceedings. 

Because Newell cannot be prosecuted, the Star Democrat reports that Caroline County State’s Attorney Joe Riley said their focus will be “making sure resources are available for the victims.”

Students who desire assistance related to this topic can contact Health & Counseling services at (410) 778-7261; counseling sessions are both remote and in-person; or they can submit a CARE Report at washcoll-advocate.symplicity.com/care_report. Those who want to report a Title IX incident can contact Interim Dean of Students & Title IX Coordinator Greg Krikorian at gkrikorian2@washcoll.edu; call Public Safety at (410) 778-7810; contact Student Affairs at (410) 778-7752; or reach out to any Title IX Advocate, including Director of Sports Medicine Matt An, Director of Alumni & Parent Engagement John Beck, Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Jennie Carr, Director of Public Service & LAT Faculty Librarian Amanda Darby, Head Women’s Lacrosse Coach Kate Fowler, Administrative Coordinator of College Advancement Trish Hamilton, Director of the River and Field Campus Michael Hardesty, Faculty Administrative Assistant Bari Lynne Kersey, and Associate Professor of Math and Computer Science Dr. Kyle Wilson. For off-campus reporting, students can turn to For All Seasons at (800) 310-7273; receive assistance at University of Maryland Shore Health Center at (410) 778-3300; or contact Shore Medical Center at Easton at (410) 810-1000.

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