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Public Notices

April 16, 2014

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Ex-Deputy's Sex Encounter Brings Federal Prison Term

Originally published: 2013-04-03 11:09:43
Last modified: 2013-04-03 11:11:36
 


BY KEN LITTLE

STAFF WRITER

Former Greene County sheriff's Deputy Robbie Morgan was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court to 311 days in prison on a conviction of deprivation of rights under the color of law.

Morgan, 40, a veteran deputy who resigned in March 2012 from the Sheriff's Department, was convicted of the misdemeanor offense in connection with an on-duty sexual encounter he had with a woman on Dec. 25, 2011.

Morgan was sentenced in Greeneville by Magistrate Judge Dennis Inman. He remains free on $20,000 bond and will begin serving the sentence later this year.

Inman directed that, upon Morgan's release from prison, he be subject to one year of supervised release.

Morgan entered a guilty plea to the misdemeanor last year.

In doing so, he admitted to participating in a sexual act with the woman in exchange for not arresting her on a drug possession charge, according to the plea agreement with prosecutors that was reached last year.

The victim, Elizabeth Davis, who has a civil lawsuit pending against Morgan, told Judge Inman before sentencing that Morgan "destroyed" her life and that she felt the system let her down.

She asked Inman to impose the maximum sentence allowed by law.

"I don't feel that he got punished enough," Davis said after sentencing.

Morgan was subject to a maximum jail sentence of up to one year, supervised release of up to one year and a fine of up to $100,000. The fine was waived by Inman.

SECOND LAWSUIT, CRIMINAL CASE

Morgan resigned from the Sheriff's Department on March 8, 2012, after it became known that a FBI investigation focusing on him was underway.

A second civil lawsuit filed by another woman naming Morgan and Greene County is also pending in federal court, along with a criminal case in Greene County.

In December, Morgan entered a not guilty plea in General Sessions Court to a charge of theft under $500 in connection with the same incident on Christmas Day 2011 that resulted in the federal prison sentence Monday.

MORGAN STATEMENT

Inman said before sentencing that the former deputy "did a despicable thing," and his act was "an aberration" that violated the public's trust.

The maximum prison time Morgan could have received for the misdemeanor offense was one year.

Inman said the 311-day sentence was calculated figuring time off for good behavior, using a sentence term of one year and one day.

Morgan showed no emotion as he learned the length of the prison term. Before sentencing, he apologized to the victim, his family, the community and "my profession."

"This is my failure," said Morgan, who added that if he could go back in time and change the course of events, he would.

"All you can do is move forward," Morgan said. "We all make mistakes."

Morgan said his criminal case has given him a new perspective.

"I've been in law enforcement a long time. This has taught me something that I never knew. I've sat at that table," he said, motioning to the prosecution side.

"There's not much more I can say. I've made every effort to rectify my mistakes," Morgan told Inman.

PROSECUTOR RESPONDS

Steven H. Cook, chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Knoxville, told the judge that Morgan is "not somebody who's come to grips with what he's done."

Morgan will never be able to work in law enforcement again as a result of the conviction Monday.

"It's now time for him to pay for what could only be described as the egregious behavior of the defendant," Cook said.

Inman said the sentence must "promote respect for the law and provide just punishment."

In a situation when an officer attempts a traffic stop, "What are we to tell our wives, daughters and females in general what they should do? Should they stop or continue driving?" Inman said.

Morgan was ordered by the judge to have no further contact with the victim.

MORGAN ADMITS GUILT

Morgan was convicted "of depriving an individual of her constitutional rights on Dec. 25, 2011, while serving as a law enforcement officer," Cook said in court.

Before sentencing, Morgan answered questions posed by Inman.

"Are you pleading guilty because you are, in fact, guilty?" Inman asked Morgan.

"Yes," he replied.

Morgan showed no emotion at sentencing.

Cook likened a police officer's duty as "a shepherd protecting a sheep from wolves."

"We teach our children and fellow members of society to trust our police," he said. "Few breaches of that trust are worse than what is presented in this case."

MORGAN'S LAWYER

Defense lawyer Guy W. Blackwell asked Inman to consider that Morgan had no criminal history.

He acknowledged, "There is no question what happened that day shouldn't have happened."

"It had a negative impact on [the victim], and it caused her harm, and no one is trying to minimize the impact on [her]," Blackwell said.

Morgan sought out Davis after the incident, apologized, and returned money he claimed she left on the seat of the patrol car, Blackwell said.

Morgan "was trying to minimize the impact on Ms. Davis," Blackwell said.

Before Morgan was aware of the FBI investigation against him, "He took it upon himself to apologize to her," Blackwell said.

'A DARK DAY'

"No one disagrees that Dec. 25, 2011, was a dark day for two people, for Elizabeth Davis for what she went through and absolutely Robbie Morgan," he said.

Morgan's actions were "not something that was premeditated, [and] it was not something that was planned," Blackwell said.

Cook took exception to those comments. He said the money given to Davis after the Christmas Day incident was "hush money."

"[Blackwell] had the audacity to tell us that Dec. 25 was a dark day for both of them," Cook said.

OTHER CASES PENDING

Morgan's full name is Robert Lee Morgan II, of Old Mountain Road.

Court documents related to his conviction Monday state that Morgan, "while acting under the color of law, did willfully deprive a woman, 'E.D.,' of rights, privileges, and immunities secured and protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States, to wit, the sexual mistreatment of 'E.D.,' thereby willfully depriving her of the right to bodily integrity protected by the Fourth and Fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution."

In a civil lawsuit filed in federal court in July 2012, plaintiff Davis alleges that Morgan, while on duty as a deputy sheriff and acting "under the color of law," violated her federal civil rights through "assault, battery and the intentional infliction of emotional distress."

HOW INCIDENT BEGAN

Morgan was on duty as a Greene County sheriff's deputy on Dec. 25, 2011, according to his plea agreement.

He was driving a marked patrol car in the early morning hours and had just completed a business check at the Valero Market at the intersection of the 107 Cutoff and Jones Bridge Road.

Morgan saw a Honda sedan make a left-hand turn from the 107 Cutoff onto Greystone Road, the court document states.

The car was being driven at a speed over the posted limit before it "slowed quickly and turned into a driveway," the plea states.

Morgan followed, and notified the Sheriff's Department dispatcher that "he was checking out a suspicious vehicle."

A person got out of the car and went to the front door of a house. Meanwhile, the driver moved to the passenger seat of the car "in an apparent attempt to make it appear as though he had not been driving," the document states.

Morgan approached the man, referred to in the plea agreement as "J.P." He determined J.P. "had been drinking and driving the car on a suspended license," handcuffed him and placed him in the back seat of the patrol car.

CAR OWNER

Morgan found that the car's owner was Davis, and during a car search, he found half of a pill in a cigarette wrapper.

Davis claimed the pill was not hers, and Morgan made her empty the contents of her purse and pockets "and put the items, including cash, on the front seat in the Sheriff's Department car," the plea agreement states.

The document states that Davis told Morgan "she would do whatever she had to do not to go to jail" and was told by Morgan to meet him at the nearby Valero Market.

Morgan left with the handcuffed man and let him out of the car near the intersection of Greystone Road and Camp Creek Road "without charging him with an offense," the document states.

About 10 minutes after the first stop, Morgan returned to the Valero Market, where he told Davis to follow him to a nearby power substation, "which was more remote, which she did," the plea agreement states.

When they arrived, Morgan told Davis to get in the front seat of the patrol car. He then drove to the back of the power substation "and directed [Davis] to the rear seat of the car."

"After [Davis] got into the back seat, Morgan got in and at Morgan's direction, [Davis] performed oral sex on Morgan," the plea agreement states.

Davis was then allowed to retrieve her cell phone and driver license, return to her car, and leave.

'RETAINED' CASH

"Morgan retained some of the cash that he seized. [Davis] was not charged with any offense," the document states.

An affidavit of complaint in connection with the theft-under-$500 state charge filed against Morgan says that on Christmas Day 2011, Morgan "did exercise control" of $280 belonging to Davis without her consent.

Morgan "did willfully and intentionally take the money from the victim without legal reason to do so," the report said.

EX-COUNTY COMMISSIONER

Morgan was employed as a deputy sheriff from early 1998 until his resignation in March 2012.

He was elected by the Greene County Commission in 2005 to fill the unexpired term of Commissioner Jim Eagle after Eagle died in office. Morgan ran for a full term as commissioner in 2010 but was not elected.

Greene County Sheriff Steve Burns said last year that his office fully cooperated with federal authorities during the Morgan investigation.

"Certainly, I don't condone any conduct like that by any officer. Based on the investigation and the case, he no longer works here," Burns said at the time.

DAVIS LAWSUIT

In Davis' federal lawsuit relating to the traffic stop, she claims Morgan forced her into an unsolicited sexual act in his Greene County Sheriff's Department car.

The lawsuit asks the court for a financial judgment of $3 million in compensatory and punitive damages against Morgan and the county "for lost wages, future lost wages, present and future medical payments, and pain and suffering."

The lawsuit states that the county government is being sued because Greene County was Morgan's employer at the time of the alleged on-duty violation of Davis' rights "and was under notice that Robbie Morgan had engaged in previous controversial behavior which was illegal and unconstitutional."

The civil action claims Greene County failed "to properly supervise Robbie Morgan, [and the county] implicitly authorized, approved, or knowingly acquiesced in the unconstitutional conduct of Robbie Morgan against [Davis]."

JENNINGS LAWSUIT

The second civil lawsuit, filed in October 2012 in U.S. District Court, names Morgan and Greene County as defendants in a civil action alleging violation of the federal civil rights of a woman Morgan allegedly abused while on duty.

Plaintiff Kathy Ann Jennings seeks $2 million in damages "for present and future medical and therapeutic treatment, and pain and suffering in the form of compensatory and punitive damages," the lawsuit states.

That lawsuit alleges "deprivation of [Jennings'] civil rights for the illegal assault and battery against [her] which intentionally caused her severe emotional distress."

The alleged events that prompted the Jennings lawsuit happened on Feb. 14, 2012, and stemmed from an investigation by Morgan of an automobile accident involving Jennings and her son, Brent.

In his encounter with Kathy Ann Jennings, the lawsuit claims that Morgan appeared "angry and agitated" before he "abruptly slammed [Jennings'] head against the rear passenger side window of the patrol car and began to pat her down very roughly."

"While one hand held her tightly against the car, he ran his hands up and down her legs, and very deliberately, with great force, jammed his hand high up into her groin area, so that it made her involuntarily jump in place," the lawsuit states.

Morgan has denied wrongdoing in both civil lawsuits.

Both Jennings' and Davis's lawsuits are in the discovery phase.

 
For more information and stories, see The Greeneville Sun.

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