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Friday, April 16, 2010

Department of Justice

United States Attorney James R. Dedrick Eastern District of Tennessee


FORMER HAMBLEN COUNTY DEPUTY SENTENCED TO 188 MONTHS IN PRISON FOR CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

GREENEVILLE, Tenn--Dexter L. Morris, Jr., age 36, of Morristown, Tennessee, was sentenced to 188 months (15 years 8 months) in prison in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Greeneville by the Honorable J. Ronnie Greer, United States District Judge.

As established by the proof at trial, Morris, while employed as a deputy sheriff with the Hamblen County Sheriff's Office, stopped a "J.L." the evening of August 24, 2005, detained her for over an hour and a half, and then directed her to a deserted cemetery where he raped her in the rear seat of his patrol car.

Less than one month later, on September 18, 2005, Morris, after arresting "N.E." on a misdemeanor probation violation warrant, took "N.E." into a side room at the Hamblen County jail, outside the view of security cameras, and compelled her to expose her breasts with the threat of additional charges and the loss of custody of her children.

Morris had been involved in misconduct two years earlier, in August 2003, when, while a jailer at the Hamblen County jail, he compelled a female inmate, "R.L.", to engage in sexual activity.

Finally, on the evening of September 25, 2005, Morris stopped a teenage girl, "T.W.", under the pretense that he suspected her of drunken driving. Morris engaged in inappropriate behavior, to include placing his hands in the girl's jeans pockets under the pretense of searching her, making suggestive remarks, and soliciting the girl to accompany him to a nearby deserted park.

Morris, when questioned by FBI special agents in April 2007, falsely claimed that he could not recall ever having sexual relations, to include consensual relations, with any woman he had encountered in a traffic stop.

After hearing four days of testimony, a jury, on June 8, 2009, found Morris guilty of all three counts of the indictment -Count 1, which charged a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242, deprivation of rights under color of law constituting aggravated sexual abuse, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment; Count 2, which charged a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242, deprivation of rights under color of law, with a maximum penalty of one year imprisonment; and Count 3, which charged a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001, making a false statement in a matter within the jurisdiction of a federal agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

At the sentencing hearing, Judge Greer rejected Morris’ claims that the sexual encounter was consensual and amounted to nothing more than adultery, stating that instead of holding a gun to the head of the victim Morris used his blue lights and badge. In imposing the non-parolable sentence of over fifteen years imprisonment, Judge Greer noted the effect that Morris’ criminal conduct had on the public’s trust in law enforcement officers. Judge Greer also cited the psychological harm to the victims in imposing the lengthy term of imprisonment.

In addition to the term of imprisonment, Judge Greer also imposed a five-year term of supervised release after Morris is released from prison.

The indictment and subsequent conviction of Morris was the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the assistance of Detective Lieutenant Mike Hayes and Sheriff Esco Jarnigan of the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Department. AUSA Neil Smith represented the United States.

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