Morris calls abuse claim ‘lies’

Published 9:50 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Delegate Rick Morris will not resign as he defends himself against charges of abusing his wife and a child, his attorney said Tuesday.

Morris was set for arraignment in Suffolk Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Tuesday morning. He did not appear, but his attorney, Nicole Belote, was in court to set his next appearance for Dec. 15 at 1 p.m.

Belote, a member of the law firm Kozak, Davis and Renninger, said Morris will defend himself against the charges and does not intend to resign.

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“Delegate Morris adamantly denies these allegations, which are nothing more than distortions, misrepresentations, and lies, and he is confident that the truth will be revealed through the legal process,” stated a press release distributed by Belote.

“Delegate Morris respects Speaker (William) Howell’s decision to request his resignation; however, Delegate Morris knows he is innocent and fully believes in the rule of law and the legal process. As such, he will not resign and will see this matter through to its conclusion.”

Morris is charged with seven felony and seven misdemeanor charges, brought by Suffolk Police last week. Court records state Morris’ wife accuses him of pushing her into furniture, the kitchen counter and a wall. A child in the home also accuses Morris of punching him in the stomach, throwing a metal hose nozzle at him while he did push-ups as punishment, and beating him with a belt and a wooden spoon as punishment, according to the court documents.

Police saw wounds on the boy’s hands and arms from the belt and wooden spoon, according to the court documents. They also collected a journal entry in which the boy described other incidents.

Belote, however, said, “We are confident once all of the evidence is presented at the trial, that the truth will come out. We don’t believe these charges should have been brought.”

Belote said five children live in the home, including the one in question in the allegations. Some of them are stepchildren. Four other children live outside of the home.

Belote said she believes the General Assembly session will go on “business as usual” if the matters are not resolved before then, and she said Morris intends to fulfill all of his duties as a delegate.

“He takes those duties very seriously,” she said.

A protective order is in effect against Morris for his wife and some of the children. Belote said she anticipates the order will be reviewed at the same time as the court appearance on the charges.

He is staying in the area, she added. One of the conditions of his bond is that he not leave the state. He also is continuing to work as an attorney while he devotes time to preparing his defense.

Belote added that Morris will not be talking to the media currently. She said she has advised him against doing so. He has not returned phone calls from the Suffolk News-Herald.

Republican leaders in the Virginia House of Delegates issued a statement last week calling for Morris’ resignation.

“We are deeply concerned by the charges against Delegate Rick Morris,” reads the statement issued by House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell, Majority Leader M. Kirkland “Kirk” Cox, Caucus Chairman Timothy D. Hugo, Majority Whip Jackson H. Miller and Deputy Majority Leader C. Todd Gilbert.

“While we all believe that individuals are innocent until proven guilty and entitled to their day in court, these are serious and troubling allegations. Accordingly, we have asked Delegate Morris to resign his seat effective immediately. He needs this time to focus on his personal and family life, and we pray for the comfort and healing of everyone involved in this situation.”