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Judge convicted of bribery gets a new trial

The former Wayne County Superior Court judge who was convicted of bribing a federal agent with beer and cash will get a new day in court.

In the wake of his conviction, Arnold Jones, who was facing several decades in prison, argued that he was entitled to a retrial because his trial judge, Senior U.S. District Judge James Fox, made a disparaging remark about his lead attorney within earshot of the jury.

Jones also asserted that Fox had wrongly prevented his defense team from questioning the agent he allegedly bribed about his motives for becoming an informant and helping prosecutors build a case against Jones.

A federal jury in Wilmington deliberated for about 30 minutes in October before finding Jones guilty of bribery, corruption and paying gratuities to a public official. The convictions carry a combined maximum sentence of more than 35 years. Fox was slated to hand down Jones’s sentence March 27.

But Fox stepped away from the case, which was reassigned to U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle, who granted Jones’s motion for a new trial Feb. 23.

“We appreciate the court’s consideration of our arguments and are pleased with the ruling,” said an attorney on Jones’s defense team, Elliot Abrams of Cheshire Parker in Raleigh. He declined further comment.

U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Don Connelly also declined to discuss the case, citing the department’s policy against commenting on pending litigation.

Prosecutors alleged that Jones bribed federal task force agent Matthew Miller with the offer of two cases of Bud Light and, later, $100 cash in exchange for text messages that Jones’s wife sent to an out-of-state colleague. Jones believed his now-estranged wife was having an affair, according to his attorneys.

Evidence against Jones included secretly recorded video and audio of him talking with Miller about obtaining the private text records from Verizon. Miller would’ve had to lie about having probable cause to obtain a warrant from a federal magistrate to get the records. Another video showed Jones descending the courthouse steps in his black robe to retrieve a CD from Miller that was supposed to contain the text messages.

In arguing for a new trial, Jones said Fox “made an outright comment on the court’s perception of the untrustworthiness of [his] lead lawyer,” Joseph Cheshire of Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan in Raleigh, during a bench conversation that was loud enough for the jury to hear.

Fox allegedly said he “did not trust counsel for Mr. Jones” based on Cheshire’s role in a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case that reversed one of Fox’s orders in 1994, according to Jones. He and his defense team had moved to have Fox recused from presiding over his trial and asked for a mistrial, but the motion was denied.

Jones also argued that he should have been able to tell jurors that he’d suppressed warrants in some of Miller’s cases and also that Miller had been the subject of “numerous internal affairs complaints for serious mistreatment of citizens” and was facing a federal civil rights lawsuit.


He further asserted that Fox wrongly deprived him of his right to challenge whether Miller was a public official – a key element of two of the three charges that Jones faced: bribery of a public official and paying gratuity to a public official.

In a response to Jones’s motion for a new trial, assistant U.S. attorney William Gilmore had contended that Jones was trying to “undermine his conviction” and attempting to “blame the court for many of his own prior concessions and failed trial strategies.”

He also told the court that Jones was “convicted on the basis of his own words and actions captured on two videotapes.”

A date for Jones’s new trial has not been set.

Follow Phillip Bantz on Twitter @NCLWBantz


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