NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CN) – Prosecutors on Tuesday brought bribery and witness-tampering charges against a Nashville judge, claiming he offered to pay a witness in his federal corruption probe $6,000 to change her statements.
Davidson County General Sessions Judge Cason “Casey” Moreland was arrested by FBI agents Tuesday morning and is expected to appear before a magistrate in the afternoon.
Moreland, 59, has been the subject of an FBI investigation since January. According to a criminal complaint released Tuesday, the agency has been looking at whether Moreland and others violated federal anti-corruption laws by trading sexual and other favors in exchange for help in court.
“The federal criminal investigation is centered on allegations that Moreland solicited, accepted, and extorted things of value—including sexual favors, travel, and lodging— from persons with whom he had close personal relationships, in return for performing official acts that benefitted these persons and their associates,” the complaint states.
The judge is accused of offering a material witness in the FBI’s investigation $6,100 to recant prior statements implicating him in criminal conduct. The witness reportedly had a sexual relationship with Moreland that began in April 2016.
Prosecutors say that on March 11, Moreland gave an intermediary a pre-written affidavit for the witness to sign and $5,100 in cash as payment. He allegedly took steps to make sure his fingerprints weren’t on the affidavit.
According to the 19-page complaint, Moreland told the intermediary, “You're like a private investigator. We're taking a statement from her. But you don't work for me."
He told the intermediary to get the witness “liquored up real good” before bringing up the affidavit, the complaint alleges. Prosecutors say the witness agreed to sign the affidavit “as-is” for another $1,000, which Moreland allegedly delivered later that night.
In addition to the affidavit, Moreland is also accused of planning to plant drugs on the witness and orchestrate a traffic stop that would lead to her arrest and damage her credibility.
Moreland is charged with obstructing a criminal investigation, tampering with a witness and retaliating against a witness. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.
Acting Middle Tennessee U.S. Attorney Jack Smith said in a statement Tuesday that the allegations against Moreland “set forth egregious abuses of power by a judge sitting here in Nashville.”
“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 branch of government,” Smith said. “Public corruption remains one of the highest priorities of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI and officials who engage in such behavior will always be thoroughly investigated and vigorously prosecuted.”
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry called for Moreland's resignation Tuesday.
"Nashville deserves to have absolute trust in our judiciary, and Casey Moreland, based upon the allegations in the federal complaint, seems to have clearly violated that trust," Barry said in a statement. "Like all Americans, Judge Moreland deserves the chance to defend himself in court. However, resigning his position now would seem to be in the best interest of the Nashvillians who depend upon the integrity of our General Sessions Court judges to rule in a fair and unbiased manner.”
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