Charges to be withdrawn against delegate

Published 1:18 pm Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Del. Rick Morris (R-64) has said that the four charges of child cruelty and assault and battery will be withdrawn on Wednesday. When contacted at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Morris said he had only learned of that impending action a short while before.

Nicole Belote, his attorney in the matter, confirmed a half hour later that a motion of nolle prosse will be made at 9 a.m., and that she won’t object. Retired Judge John E. Wetsel Jr. of Winchester will preside via videoconference.

Last September, the delegate had been charged and arrested on multiple counts of abusing a stepchild and his wife. During a hearing closed to media in December, Morris was cleared of most of the 14 counts when the child had admitted lying. But the prosecution argued that a count of alleged abuse of the child is valid and that was allowed to stand. A grand jury came up with three more indictments, and another hearing was scheduled for mid-May in Suffolk Circuit Court. That was later continued to this month.

The child’s parents, who are separated, pleaded with the prosecution that all remaining charges be dropped. They did not believe it was in their child’s best interests to put him back on the stand.

At the time, a representative for prosecution said there was a “no-drop” policy.

Belote said that she had been contacted on Friday afternoon, and a conference call with the judge took place on Monday. When the matter had been continued back in May, the prosecution wanted time to subpoena the alleged victim. Apparently, the most that side achieved was to send a certificate to Texas where the child reportedly lives with his natural father.

To the best of her research, there’s nothing on dockets in the state pertaining to the child or a subpoena.

The charges are not strictly dismissed, but Belote said she could not see any prosecution reviving them.

“There are so many credibility issues. I don’t know see why they would bring this back,” she said.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Morris told the paper, and added that he’ll make a statement after the charges are formally withdrawn.