John Grisham and Tom Clancy novels (and films) have helped to shape the American public's understanding of how covert deals and operations take place within—or outside—the framework of justice in the United States. A dead drop; a 3 AM call from a payphone; a cipher for tomorrow's newspaper.
But what Grisham and Clancy didn't tell you is that sometimes a couple cases of watery domestic beer could potentially be involved.
This past week, a North Carolina Superior Court judge was convicted of attempting to bribe a sheriff's deputy to obtain copies of text messages sent between the judge's wife, whom he suspected of infidelity, and a man, according to The News & Observer. For tapping the phones and supplying the texts, the judge, Arnold O. Jones II, offered the deputy—who is also a member of an FBI gang task force—the primo prize of a couple of cases of Bud Light.
The defense attorney for Jones has said he will appeal the verdict, which came after less than an hour of jury deliberation.
Authorities can only get copies of text messages with a warrant when there is suspicion of criminality. When Jones asked the agent, whom he thought was a friend, to get copies of the texts, he said, "I want down low—see what you can do without drawing attention. … This involves family so I don't want anybody to know."
For his discreet services, the judge would give the deputy, Matthew Miler, "a couple of cases of beer." The officer texted back, "FYI… Just to keep things simple I'm a bud light guy." [sic]
Jones wrote back, "I can handle that!!!"
When Miller told Jones he had the texts on a disk, Jones reportedly replied that he had "his paycheck." Unfortunately for Jones, the disk was blank, and Miller had an operation underway to bring Jones to justice.
But somewhere along the way, the payment was renegotiated, and Jones said he'd pay Miller $100 which, while not as immediately satisfying as 48 Bud Lights, is clearly a better deal. (Bud Light runs about $16 for a 24-pack.) Jones reportedly handed over the money, and not long after was arrested at his home in a "SWAT-team-like raid."
Jones's defense argued that the deputy never told him that what he was asking would require a warrant, and says that he was led along by the deputy. The prosecution however, says Miller told Jones there was no legal probable cause for the tapping.
Jones, a Democrat, is currently campaigning for re-election in Wayne County, but the conviction could cost him his license and his job.
Budweiser did not immediately return a request for comment.
The wheels of justice are currently in motion and justice will have its say, brought to you, in part, by Bud Light.