SUFFOLK, Va. – Del. Rick Morris was in court last week on charges of abuse dealing with his step-son and wife.
The Republican from Suffolk was facing seven felonies and seven misdemeanors for a domestic violence case, his attorney said.
On December 15 the misdemeanors were Noelle prosed and only one of Morris’ felony charges still remains against him.
On Monday Morris posted a response on his Facebook page:
“I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to all those who provided their support, prayers and well-wishes over the course of my recent legal difficulties. In September 2016, I was falsely accused of 7 misdemeanors and 7 felonies of domestic and child abuse. On 15 December 2016, these matters went before Judge Brewbaker and I’m thankful for his judicious attention to this matter. This is the first step on the road to vindication. At the request of Kathryn Morris to ensure privacy of mental health issues of her son C.H., my attorney, with the concurrence of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, made a Motion to the Court to close the proceedings. The Special Prosecutor made a Motion to the Judge to Nolle Prosequi the 7 misdemeanor charges. The Judge can grant the “nole pross” Motion upon a showing of good cause by the prosecutor. Judge Brewbaker then conducted a preliminary hearing for the remaining 7 felony charges. A preliminary hearing is determined by the lowest standard of proof in law, and the prosecutor must only show “some” evidence to base the charges on. 6 of the 7 charges were found to not even have “some” evidence. The sole remaining offense to which I have been charged is Va. Code 40.1-103, under the Child Labor Laws. This statute is extremely broad, ambiguous, and undefined and it states:
“It shall be unlawful for any person employing or having the custody of any child willfully or negligently to cause or permit the life of such child to be endangered or the health of such child to be injured, or willfully or negligently to cause or permit such child to be placed in a situation that its life, health or morals may be endangered, or to cause or permit such child to be overworked, tortured, tormented, mutilated, beaten or cruelly treated. Any person violating this section is guilty of a Class 6 felony.”
Unfortunately, the Virginia Code does not define “overworked”, “tortured”, “tormented”, “beaten”, or “cruelly treated”, none of which I did. With these acts not defined by the statute it leaves the interpretation and complete discretion, up to the police officer who makes the charge, the Commonwealth’s Attorney who prosecutes, and the jury who hears the case. When it comes to charging citizens with crimes the law should be clearly defined as to the specific criminal act in order to prevent any bias or personal opinion of the police officer or Commonwealth’s Attorney. Judge Brewbaker expressed his concern with the statute:
“Well, the only way I can make any sense of this statute, and to read the statute as a whole, and even determine that willfully causing injury to the health of a child must be something similar to overworked, tortured, tormented, mutilated, beaten, or cruelly treated; or otherwise. I don’t think a parent could make it through the week without being in violation of this statute.” – Judge Brewbaker
In Judge Brewbaker’s ruling on certifying this charge to the grand jury as having “some” evidence, he stated: “This case has enormous credibility challenges, and the Commonwealth’s case has enormous inconsistencies within the case, but it is not my role at a preliminary hearing to resolve credibility issues or inconsistencies in the evidence. That’s the job, the responsibility of a fact-finder. My role is only to determine whether there is any basis on which a finder of fact could conclude that this statute has been violated. I’ve already spoken of the problems that I have with the statute. But though, I clarify, it is not necessarily one way or the other a conclusion I could ever come to, but I do find that there is a credible basis on which a fact-finder could conclude the offense occurred, if the fact-finder chooses to believe C.H.” – Judge Brewbaker
As the hearing transcript will show, C.H. admitted to being untruthful to the police and the physician who interviewed him. Additionally, the transcript will show that there are enormous inconsistencies between what C.H. alleges and the physical evidence. C.H.’s mother, Kathryn Morris, was called as a witness by the prosecution and testified that she requested that I assist her in disciplining C.H. in an attempt to correct his behavior and that I did not abuse him.
I am confident that in due time I will be completely vindicated. However, this process must play out and I respect that. Again, I thank all those who’ve expressed their well-wishes and prayers, and I will continue to defend myself from these false accusations until the sole remaining charge is dismissed as well.”