New indictments brought against delegate

Published 10:29 am Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Just when it looked as if Del. Richard “Rick” Morris (R-64) could almost begin to put private matters made public behind him, new indictments have been brought up against him.

This past fall, Morris was arrested on multiple charges, including abusing his wife and one of her children. During the hearing in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in Suffolk this past December, most of the charges were dismissed. It should be noted that media were prohibited from reporting then based on an order of the judge in consideration that a minor would be giving testimony.

One charge remained, though, and that was related for an alleged incident of child cruelty, which was scheduled to a grand jury this month.

But instead of just concentrating on the one issue, which had been certified by J&DR, the grand jury gave three more indictments: another for child cruelty and two for domestic assault and battery, which is a Class I misdemeanor, according to Morris’ attorney Nicole Belote.

She explained that Suffolk Commonwealth Attorney Phil Ferguson felt there was a conflict and he had recused himself. Other CA’s in the region were asked for availability and it fell to Hampton.

Shukita Massey, assistant commonwealth’s attorney in that city, confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that “the Suffolk office conflicted out of it,” and that she’s been designated as the prosecutor, though she didn’t know why Hampton was picked.

Massey also confirmed that a different felonious charge of child cruelty and two misdemeanors were directed to the grand jury. She added that the Virginia Supreme Court has appointed retired judge Louis Lerner, who formerly practiced in Hampton, to serve. A new hearing will be scheduled.

Belote made the following statement on Tuesday:

“It is unfortunate that the Hampton Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has chosen to present direct indictments against Del. Rick Morris after serious issues were exposed during and following the preliminary hearing. Even though the alleged victim was caught in numerous lies during the course of the preliminary hearing, has informed the prosecutor that he does not wish to testify, and family members, including his mother, have voiced concerns about his complete lack of credibility and how testifying is going to detrimentally affect him, it seems that the prosecutor has chosen to disregard all of those issues.

“Following presentation of evidence at the preliminary hearing, six of seven felonies were dismissed even with the burden of proof being merely that of probable cause. It is troubling that Del. Morris will have to defend against charges that are based upon evidence that was previously presented to a judge in a hearing that lasted over six hours and ended with probable cause being established on only one charge. Nonetheless, Del. Morris will request a trial date as quickly as possible so that he can be vindicated of these charges.