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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Davidson County Judge Casey Moreland was arrested and formally charged Tuesday morning by federal authorities in an ongoing investigation into his conduct.
While cuffed at the arms and legs, Moreland appeared in front of a federal magistrate for an arraignment on charges of obstruction of criminal investigations, tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant and retaliating against a witness, victim, or an informant in Nashville.
During his initial appearance, the Davidson County judge replied “Yes, sir” when asked if he understood the obstruction of justice charges against him and the potential penalties.
Moreland, whose hands and feet were both cuffed Tuesday, will remain in federal custody at a Grayson County, Kentucky, jail pending another hearing on Friday.
News 2 spoke with his attorney, Peter Strianse, late Tuesday afternoon who said, “He is obviously in a bit of a state of shock. You know he certainly did not expect to be awoken by the FBI at 6 o’clock this morning with a search warrant. So I think he is still reeling a bit from all of that.”
He added, “He is like any person. He did not expect to be here today. He certainly understood that he was under investigation, but he thought that investigation would be like a lot of investigations – they would look at it and look at it and made a determination if they have enough to charge somebody. This was really an abrupt way to start the day.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation began investigating Moreland and others on January 25 after allegations they violated federal anti-corruption statutes by soliciting, accepting and extorting things of value including sexual favors, from people he had close relationships with in return for performing official acts that benefited those people and their associates.
Moreland reportedly became aware of the investigation in early February when FBI agents attempted to interview him.
Federal documents also allege that earlier this month, Moreland took steps to “obstruct and interfere with the federal investigation” by attempting to pay a woman to recant her prior statements about him.
According to the documents, on or about March 1, Moreland allegedly met with someone, referred to as “CS-1,” and devised a scheme to pay several thousands of dollars to the woman in exchange for changing her statements about him. Moreland also expressed his “desire to have drugs planted on the woman and orchestrate a traffic stop where the drugs would be found and her credibility destroyed.”
Documents revealed Moreland also took steps to allegedly conceal this involvement by using a burner phone.
The complaint also alleges that on March 11, Moreland gave “CS-1” an affidavit written as if the woman wrote it.
The judge gave “CS-1” $5,100 in cash and told them to make sure the woman was “liquored up real good” before mentioning the affidavit. During later conversations with “CS-1” that same day, Moreland was told the woman flagged various portions of the affidavit that were “inaccurate,” but said she would agree to sign it for an additional $1,000. Moreland reportedly agreed and gave “CS-1” the additional money.
“The allegations set forth in the indictment set forth egregious abuses of power by a judge sitting here in Nashville,” said acting U.S. Attorney Jack Smith.
He continued, “Such an abuse of power undermines the credibility of and destroys the public’s trust in the court system and strikes at the very essence of our judicial brand of government.”
If convicted, Moreland could face up to 20 years in prison.
News 2 reached out to the Board of Judicial Conduct, who also launched an investigation into Moreland’s conduct earlier this year.
Chair of board, Judge Chris Craft, said if Judge Moreland had been indicted, the board, by statute, could meet to decide whether or not to immediately suspend him pending the outcome of the case.
Since Moreland was only arrested Tuesday, the board “has no statutory authority to suspend, unless first a formal investigation had been conducted by disciplinary counsel, formal charges had been filed and he had been found guilty after a public trial of violating the Judicial Code of Conduct. No public formal charges have yet been filed.” Click here to read more on the Board of Judicial Conduct’s procedures.
Just last month, Moreland opened up to News 2 about stepping aside from two roles and being placed under investigation for ethical conduct.
“I think a lot of the allegations have been sensationalized. This has really… this has been a tragedy,” Moreland said.
Despite stepping down from his presiding role in the General Sessions court, Moreland told News 2 at the time that he wants to complete his term. However, after his charges, Mayor Megan Barry called for his resignation.