DENTON — While the FBI won’t comment on whether the investigation into videos found in Judge Jonathan Newell’s custody is continuing after his death, Caroline County State’s Attorney Joe Riley is on record asking that the case continue.
“I am asking our federal partners continue to analyze every piece of electronic evidence that was seized in the July search warrant execution. This is important so all survivors of this abuse are identified and if anyone else participated as a perpetrator they are also brought to justice,” Riley said in a Facebook post Friday, Sept. 17, just seven days after Newell died at his own hand.
Warrants were issued in the case for searches of Newell’s cabin, residence, truck, boat and office, and numerous digital devices were seized. When the federal complaint against Newell was filed Sept. 9, it stated forensic examination of the digital devices was still ongoing.
One device, singled out in the complaint, was a Toshiba external hard drive found in a safe at Newell’s house. FBI Special Agent Rachel S. Corn wrote that the hard drive contained a folder titled “edited swim,” with 15 subfolders, each containing “videos of minor males in a bathroom, disrobing and showering.” Some of the videos also showed Newell setting up the camera and inspecting, sometimes touching, the boys’ naked bodies, according to the complaint.
The complaint against Newell was dropped upon his death Sept. 10. Riley said he wants justice for the victims and to see anyone else involved prosecuted, both things necessary to bring healing to the community.
Police say Newell appears to have shot himself with FBI agents and police outside his home with a criminal complaint for alleged child sexual exploitation.
Questions remain regarding who else used the cabin where Newell brought the boys and teens in Fishing Creek. Newell mentioned 10 other “members” who used the cabin during an interview with investigators, according to the FBI complaint. The same complaint references another adult being present at the cabin the same day in July when one of the boys with Newell discovered the camera.
Riley has proposed a change in Maryland Criminal Law Code that would increase the penalty for visual surveillance with prurient intent. The proposal, dated Sept. 16, was sent to the Maryland State’s Attorney’s Association Legislative Committee, which Riley chairs.
In a phone interview, Riley said early in the investigation he and Dorchester State’s Attorney William H. Jones were discussing what type of charges might be filed.
They knew there were video images but had not seen them. The definition of child pornography is very specific, especially concerning males, genitals have to be exposed, Riley said. With Newell swallowing the SD card from the camera, they never had opportunity to see images from that, and other electronics were being analyzed.
“I still have not seen any of the images,” he said Friday. He recused himself from the case; the investigation was turned over to the FBI and federal prosecutors.
But when they were looking at what charges might be appropriate, Riley said he and Jones realized the penalty for surreptitious video surveillance with prurient interest was only a year in prison or a $2,500 fine or both.
“One of the concerns was that a one year maximum visual surveillance charge was not sufficient to encompass the harm and the violation on these young men,” Riley wrote in his proposal, which he said is an attempt to address that disparity.
His proposal would add a section to make the visual surveillance with prurient intent a felony when it involves the videoing of a minor by someone more than four years their senior and increase the penalty to up to 10 years in prison or a $5,000 fine or both.
Riley also requested the sentencing guidelines worksheets for Newell’s cases from the Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy and said his office will review Newell’s sentences from August 2016 to August 2021 for any possible irregularity.
He said he wants to restore trust in the office, in prosecuting and in the county and to help the community heal.
Anyone contemplating suicide is urged to seek help by calling the Maryland Helpline at 1-800-422-0009 or dial 211 and select option 1 or text 898-211.
Maryland’s Helpline is available around the clock to callers in need of crisis intervention. Trained counselors are available to help callers struggling with such issues as drug or alcohol use, depression, anxiety, suicidal/homicidal thoughts, physical and sexual abuse and more.
To report an incident involving the possession, distribution, receipt, or production of child pornography, call your local police department or file a report on the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s website at www.cybertipline.com, or call 1-800-843-5678.