To enter the plea, Morris was transported from federal prison where he was serving a 71-month sentence after pleading guilty in August 2009 to fraud, money laundering and conspiracy charges. He was also ordered to pay $212,537.53 in restitution and forfeit $194,000 in property as part of his federal conviction, and U.S. District Court Judge Lacey Collier admonished him for “tarnish[ing] the badge of every law enforcement officer in this entire area.” [See: PLN, Dec. 2009, p.22].
“It’s time to move on,” said Morris, who previously served as president of the Florida Sheriff’s Association, as he appeared in court in a jail jumpsuit and handcuffs to plead to the state charges. “I don’t want to see my family go through another trial. I’ve done enough harm.”
Morris will not be sentenced on the state charges until after the trials of his co-defendants, whom he agreed to testify against. Five other sheriff’s office employees have been charged in connection with the kickback scheme.
Morris’ former director of administration, Teresa Y. Adams, pleaded guilty to federal charges and was sentenced on Sept. 18, 2009 to 36 months in prison, three years’ supervised release and joint repayment of the restitution ordered in Morris’ case.
In January 2010, Sabra Thornton, Morris’ chief of staff and mistress, was found guilty following a state court trial. Also facing state racketeering charges are Chief Deputy Michael Coup, Finance Director Sandra Norris and Information Technology Specialist David Yacks.
When Morris was arrested in Las Vegas in February 2009, he was found with $35,000 in cash. Investigators traced the money to a scheme in which certain sheriff’s office employees received bonuses and then paid a portion of the bonuses to Morris in cash. The money came from Homeland Security and Justice Training grants, and Morris spent some of the kickbacks on gambling.
“This is a very sad, sad situation for all parties involved. It involved crimes that extended over [a] long period of time, [and] involved many people that worked for him,” said State Attorney Bill Eddins.
Morris’ mistress, Sabra Thornton, was sentenced in April 2010 to 25 months in prison and five years’ probation on state theft charges. She was further ordered to pay $67,912 in restitution to the sheriff’s office and approximately $4,000 in fees. She was released on bail pending an appeal.
Coup, Norris and Yacks are scheduled to go to trial in October 2010.
Sources: WACA, www.thedestinlog.com, www.wjhg.com
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