No prison in sex abuse of boy

Judge suspends sentence in light of man's 10-year federal term

August 20, 2008|By Kevin Rector | Kevin Rector,Sun reporter

The four 8-year-old boys were supposed to go to Walt Disney World the next day. They were staying overnight at the Reisterstown house of the man who had befriended them at a Baltimore recreation center and had been promising for weeks to take them to Florida.

But the trip in March 2007 never happened, prosecutors told a Baltimore County Circuit Court yesterday. A grandfather of one of the boys had grown suspicious of the man and that night had logged onto the Maryland Sex Offender Registry.

And there the man was: Richard David Morris, 26, convicted of a second-degree sexual offense against a child in 2000.

Morris, of the 6000 block of Deer Park Road, pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of sexual abuse of a minor involving the boy whose grandfather put a stop to the trip and called police.

The boy told investigators that he had been inappropriately kissed and touched multiple times over an eight-month period during which he had spent many weekends at the man's house, prosecutors said.

Morris received a 15-year suspended sentence and five years of supervised probation from Judge Kathleen Cox, who noted that he had been sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court to more than 10 years in federal prison for child pornography found on one of the computers seized from his home during the investigation into the abuse allegation.

Cox said she accepted the plea agreement, which called for no additional prison time and the dropping of three other changes, because both cases were "part and parcel of the same behavior."

Before sentencing, Assistant State's Attorney Stephanie Porter described Morris as a man with a history of sexual offenses who gained the trust of the 8-year-old boy by taking him out to dinner and on trips to amusement parks, including Six Flags and King's Dominion.

Porter said Morris had gotten to know the boy and his mother at the Roosevelt Recreation Center in Hampden, where the boy's friend played on a soccer team and where Morris acted as a volunteer sports coach.

Morris would offer single mothers at the center assistance in taking care of their sons - what Porter called "classic predator behavior."

Milton Wolfe, the center director, said yesterday that Morris was not employed by the center but had volunteered as an assistant coach for a baseball team.

People at the center also understood Morris to be the "mentor" of a boy who played in the soccer league, Wolfe said.

The boy was "made to feel very special" by Morris, who told the boy that he was "the most important thing in the world" and treated him as more important than the other boys who would visit his home, Porter said.

Nine other boys interviewed by investigators reported no abuse, said Morris'attorney, Richard M. Karceski.

Since the abuse began, the boy has had discipline problems and has had to switch schools, Porter said.

He also has had to deal with the other boys telling him that it was his fault they didn't go to Disney World and with mixed emotions about Morris' treatment of him.

"We're talking about an 8-year-old boy trying to weigh those inappropriate touches with those fun things," Porter said.

In interviews with investigators and a representative from the Department of Social Services, Porter said, the boy described being in Morris' bedroom while other boys were downstairs watching television.

After the sentencing, Karceski questioned why the boy's mother allowed her 8-year-old son to stay with a man she barely knew.

Porter said the mother realizes that she made a mistake and is "beating herself up over this."

Karceski said Morris suffers from an illness for which prison time is an inadequate solution.

"These are very unfortunate cases on both sides of the aisle," Karceski said.

"I think the problem with a young man like Mr. Morris is that although he'll be imprisoned and warehoused, he'll get virtually no treatment ... and this is like an addiction to a drug or an illness."

kevin.rector@baltsun.com

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