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Supreme Court applicant remains under 'active' criminal investigation, TBI says

Judge Kelvin Jones.png
Posted at 12:05 PM, Dec 06, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — An applicant for the Tennessee Supreme Court remains under "active" criminal investigation despite his attempt to downplay the issue in his application for the high-court vacancy.

Davidson County Circuit Court Judge Kelvin Jones is scheduled to appear this week before the Governor's Council for Judicial Appointments where he could face questioning about the probe by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

"It’s still active and ongoing at this time," TBI spokesperson Susan Niland said in an email response to a question by NewsChannel 5 Investigates regarding the status of the case.

Through a spokesperson, Jones declined to comment.

Jones, a Democrat elected to the bench in 2014, applied for appointment by Gov. Bill Lee to replace Justice Connie Clark, who died in September. The Council will forward three names to Lee for his consideration.

On his application, Jones was asked to respond to the question: "To your knowledge, are you now under federal, state or local investigation for possible violation of a criminal statute or disciplinary rule?"

But the Nashville judge did not directly acknowledge the criminal investigation, which was first reported by NewsChannel 5 in March.

Instead, Jones answered by saying that he was the target of a Board of Judicial Conduct complaint by "an oft suspended attorney" who had become "subject to sanctions" in Jones' court. That complaint went to the Board of Judicial Conduct and Nashville DA Glenn Funk.

"To date, no action has been taken by the Board of Judicial Conduct or the District Attorney regarding the oft suspended attorney's complaint," Jones wrote.

Kelvin Jones Application for Supreme Court.png
Kelvin Jones application for Tennessee Supreme Court

In fact, as NewsChannel 5 Investigates first reported in January, the complaint by Nashville attorney Brian Manookian was based entirely on the judge's own sworn admissions in his own divorce case.

Among his many admissions, Jones testified that he buried $100,000 cash in his backyard to hide it from the state and from his creditors.

Jones had taken out a federally guaranteed loan for a hotel in Manchester, Tennessee, that ultimately failed.

“You don’t want to have a lot of cash in accounts," the judge testified, "because the state at some point, if you’re going to owe a bill for your hotel, can come in and garnish your account.

"So I didn’t want to have that much cash in an account.”

Jones also acknowledged that he accessed his then-wife’s work emails looking for evidence, forwarding them to himself, then deleting the forwarded emails so she wouldn’t know.

In addition, the judge boasted about impersonating a man he suspected of having an affair with his wife to get a San Diego hotel to send him a copy of the man’s itemized bill.

After NewsChannel 5's report, Funk asked for the appointment of a special prosecutor.

That special prosecutor, Robert Carter of Fayetteville, requested the TBI's assistance in investigating the case.

In April, the special judge overseeing the divorce case ordered clerks to provide Jones' entire divorce file to the TBI, including the judge's sworn deposition, which was filed under seal at the time.

While acknowledging the complaint from the "oft suspended attorney" when asked about whether he's under investigation, Jones also sidestepped that issue on his application when asked to identify "the number of formal complaints" filed againt him.

He cited "four complaints" by "non-prevailing" parties in civil cases he had heard.

"These four complaints ... were all dismissed by the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct," Jones wrote.

In addition to the application for appointment to the Tennessee Supreme Court, Jones is also currently running for re-election to the Circuit Court in 2022.

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