Former Chief of Eastern Shore Volunteer Fire Department Pleads Guilty and is Sentenced to 60 Years in Federal Prison for Attempted Enticement of a Minor
Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge George L. Russell, III today sentenced James Morris, Jr., age 70, of Cordova, Maryland, to 60 years in federal prison for attempted enticement of a minor. Morris pleaded guilty to that charge today. Judge Russell also ordered that, upon his release from prison, Morris must register as a sex offender in the places where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). As detailed in his plea agreement, Morris admitted that his sexual abuse of minor victims spanned several decades, including during the time when he was Chief of the Cordova Volunteer Fire Department. The victims reported that they met Morris in a variety of ways, including through his role as a bus driver for the Talbot County Public Schools and as a Little League umpire.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Talbot County State’s Attorney Scott G. Patterson; Acting Special Agent in Charge Cardell T. Morant of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; and Colonel William M. Pallozzi, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police.
“James Morris admitted that since the 1980s he has used his position in the community to meet victims that he then sexually abused,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Hur. “We are grateful for the collaboration of our law enforcement partners to remove this sexual predator from the community so he can no longer victimize our children.”
“For decades, Morris preyed upon children using lies, deceit, and even more perversely, his community status,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Cardell T. Morant of HSI Baltimore. “This exploitation of a position of trust is an atrocity for which no sentence can bring sufficient justice and peace. However, we can be assured by this sentence that Morris will never again be free to victimize another innocent child.”
According to his plea agreement, on September 29, 2017, the Maryland State Police (MSP) received a Cybertip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children alleging sexual abuse of multiple minor victims by a member of the Cordova Volunteer Fire Department, who was later identified as Morris. MSP’s investigation led to a search warrant being executed at Morris’ residence on November 30, 2017.
During the search, law enforcement seized several electronic devices. A review of these electronic devices showed that Morris used a specific Yahoo e-mail address and law enforcement obtained a search warrant for this Yahoo email address. The results from that warrant showed that Morris used the e-mail address to respond to an advertisement placed on Craigslist titled “Underage boy looking for daddy – m4m.” The advertisement was placed by a seventeen-year-old minor male victim who lives in Virginia.
The results of the e-mail search showed that Morris and the victim engaged in a sexually explicit conversation online on November 3, 2017. During the conversation, Morris asked to visit the victim at his residence in Virginia and requested a sexually explicit photo of the victim, which the victim provided to Morris.
On March 29, 2019, Morris pleaded guilty in Talbot County Circuit Court to six sex offenses, including the sexual abuse of five separate victims beginning in the 1980s, as well as one count of possession of child pornography in 2017, and one count of solicitation of child pornography related to this case. Sentencing in that case is scheduled for August 2, 2019.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc. For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.justice.gov/psc and click on the "Resources" tab on the left of the page.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the HSI Baltimore, the Maryland State Police, and the Talbot County State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation and prosecution. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Ayn B. Ducao, who prosecuted the federal case.
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