Grand jury indicts Del. Rick Morris

Published 1:20 pm Wednesday, January 25, 2017

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

SUFFOLK — Del. Rick Morris was indicted Monday by a Suffolk grand jury on four charges — two felonies and two misdemeanors — for child cruelty and domestic abuse.

The grand jury added three additional charges to the one charge of child cruelty that was lodged against Morris following a preliminary hearing in December.

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Morris had initially faced seven felony and seven misdemeanor child and domestic abuse charges, and all but one of those were dismissed by Judge Robert S. Brewbaker Jr. at the Dec. 15 preliminary hearing. Prior to the hearing, Morris accused his wife, Kathryn Morris, of abuse, but those charges were not prosecuted. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Morris represents the 64th District, which includes parts of Isle of Wight, Surry, Suffolk, Southampton, Sussex and Prince George counties in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Since Morris’ December hearing, Fifth Judicial Circuit judges Carl Eason, Wayne Farmer and Robert Sandwich signed an order recusing themselves from hearing Morris’ case in Circuit Court.

Retired Judge Louis R. Lerner, formerly of the Eighth Judicial Circuit, has been designated to hear Morris’ trial in Suffolk Circuit Court, the date of which has not yet been set.

Morris was initially arrested for child cruelty in September. Court documents alleged that the legislator beat his 11-year-old stepson with a belt and wooden spoon, causing severe bruising, and forcing him to stand in a corner for a three-day period.

A press release from Morris’ attorney Nicole Belote called Monday’s indictments “unfortunate,” as the alleged victim, Morris’ stepson, “was caught in numerous lies” and that family members “including his mother, have voiced concerns about his complete lack of credibility and how testifying is going to detrimentally affect him.”

Morris has repeatedly denied the abuse allegations, notably in a press release he issued a few days after the Dec. 15 hearing.

Brewbaker prohibited journalists from attending, because, according to his order, much of the case relied upon the testimony of  Morris’ stepson, a minor. A member of the public, however, was allowed to remain in the courtroom.

In a statement, which he posted onto his Facebook as well, Morris also said his stepson had “admitted to being untruthful” about the allegations during the hearing, and that the hearing was “the first step on the road to vindication.”

Morris also thanked Brewbaker in his statement for his “judicial attention.”

Brewbaker has announced that he will be retiring at the end of January.
Following the closed hearing in Brewbaker’s court, the Daily Press, the Virginian-Pilot and The Smithfield Times filed a motion to obtain transcripts from the preliminary hearing.
Despite early pressure from his Republican colleagues to do so, Morris has said he has no intention of stepping down from his position in the House of Delegates.   {/mprestriction}