Tennessee judge charged with obstructing justice, witness tampering

NASHVILLE (Reuters) - A Tennessee state judge was arrested on Tuesday and charged with obstructing justice as part of an investigation of whether he traded favors for sex, officials said.

Davidson County General Sessions Court Judge Cason “Casey” Moreland was charged with obstructing justice through bribery and with witness tampering following a two-month investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court.

Moreland, 59, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee said in statement.

Moreland and his attorney could not be reached for comment.

Moreland’s attorney met with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to discuss the probe on Feb. 23. The judge, in local media interviews, has denied intervening on behalf of others, according to the complaint.

The FBI on Jan. 25 opened a probe of whether the judge extorted and accepted sexual favors, travel and lodging from people with whom he had close personal relationships, according to the complaint.

“The allegations set forth egregious abuses of power by a judge sitting here in Nashville,” acting U.S. Attorney Jack Smith said at a press conference.

One complaint filed with the Board of Judicial Conduct alleged that the judge had sex with a person in the chambers of his courtroom in exchange for dismissing charges against that person. He also engaged in sexual relationships with women who appeared before him as defendants, the complaint said.

Moreland, from Nashville, became aware of the investigation on Feb. 1 when FBI agents tried to interview him.

Moreland then tried to obstruct the investigation by attempting to pay off one witness with $6,100 so she would recant previous statements made against the judge, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

The judge also tried to arrange to have drugs planted on the witness and orchestrate a traffic stop so the drugs would be found, destroying that person’s credibility, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Moreland appeared before a U.S. magistrate on Tuesday afternoon and said he understood the charges against him, according to The Tennessean newspaper. He again declined to comment after the hearing.