Tennessee Judge Cason Moreland
Tennessee Judge Cason Moreland ()

A Tennessee judge’s text messages tell the tale in a federal indictment accusing him of trading justice for sex.

Even more serious for Nashville Judge Cason Moreland, 59, is the accusation that he attempted to thwart the investigation by paying one of the women to recant her story. Moreland was arrested Tuesday on charges of bribery and witness tampering. He appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe Brown with chains on his legs and criminal defense attorney Peter Strianse of Tune Entrekin White at his side. Strianse could not be reached for comment.

The criminal complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee accused Moreland of using his power as a judge in Nashville’s General Court—which hears civil and misdemeanor criminal cases—to drop DUI penalties in exchange for sex with defendants.

The complaint quoted one text message from the judge to a woman identified as “Person 1″ saying: “Your fees; fines and court costs are taken care of! You now officially owe me!! Haha.”

Her response: “I cannot thank you enough!!! And yes I definitely owe you!”

They planned to meet at a bar for drinks, the complaint said. But on her way there, she was stopped by the Nashville police and detained for driving without a license. She quickly notified the judge, who asked for the officer’s name and called his supervisor to request that she be allowed to continue on without a ticket. The reason given, the complaint said: She was on her way to a meeting in the judge’s chambers. The officer allowed her to drive away. She met the judge for drinks as planned. They did go to his chambers afterward—for sex.

A few days later, she texted him her gratitude again, to which the indictment said he responded that he had “just used [his] superpowers” then added that his “desk still has butt marks on it!!”

The complaint said the judge became aware of the federal investigation in February and began scheming to bribe that witness. As incentive, he texted her a photo of a pile of cash. He allegedly paid her $5,100—and then an extra $1,000—to sign an affidavit denying the story she told federal investigators.

The indictment also said he used a burner cellphone and intermediaries to try to conceal his orchestration of an attempted cover-up.

The judge was the subject of a Department of Justice press conference Tuesday, during which acting U.S. Attorney Jack Smith of the Middle District of Tennessee called the allegations “some of the most egregious abuses of power that I have ever seen.”

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