Delegate released on bond
Published 10:34 pm Wednesday, January 25, 2017
A state delegate from Suffolk turned himself in Tuesday evening on new indictments relating to alleged abuse of family members.
Richard Lee “Rick” Morris, a Republican whose district includes part of Suffolk, was processed and released early Tuesday evening after he came to Suffolk Police Department headquarters, according to city spokeswoman Diana Klink.
A grand jury on Monday handed down indictments against Morris on two felony charges of child cruelty and two misdemeanor charges of assault and battery of a family member.
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Klink said Morris was released on a $1,500 unsecured bond.
The charges stem from allegations made last year by Morris’ wife and a child in the home.
According to court documents, an adolescent child in the home told police Morris had struck him on the hands and arms with a leather belt and a wooden spoon, leaving large welts and bruising; had punched him in the stomach; and had made him sit and stand in a corner for several days.
The complaints also accuse Morris of pushing his wife into walls, counters and pieces of furniture.
Morris was previously charged in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court with 14 counts of various crimes. All but one, however, were dismissed or not prosecuted in a hearing last month in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, from which the media were barred.
Earlier this week, Morris and his attorney blasted the decision of a special prosecutor to continue pursuing indictments even after the result in the lower court.
Morris accused the Hampton Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office of a political agenda, noting chief prosecutor Anton Bell has given thousands of dollars to the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates.
Prosecutor Shukita Massey said Wednesday that two of the charges for which indictments were issued had been withdrawn in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court “on my motion for procedural and strategic reasons. I always had the intent to indict those.”
On the second felony charge, Massey said, “I decided to indict, because I believe that is a charge the commonwealth could still go forward on.”
On Wednesday, Morris was participating in General Assembly business, a point to which the Democratic Party of Virginia drew bitter attention.
He sits on the Courts of Justice Criminal Law Subcommittee, which on Wednesday heard a bill addressing penalties for those found guilty of assault against a family member.
“This is beyond politics,” stated Emily Bolton, communications director of the Democratic Party. “This is about decency. Speaker (William J.) Howell and the Republican caucus should remove Delegate Morris from all committee assignments and unequivocally demand his resignation.”
Following Morris’ original arrest on the charges in September, Republican leaders called for Morris’ resignation, but Morris refused.
Howell appeared to back away from that request in the Richmond Times-Dispatch earlier this week.
“In our system of justice, a man is innocent until he’s proven guilty,” Howell reportedly told the newspaper. “And that counts for Delegate Morris as well as anybody.”