EASTON — A former Cordova fire chief, school bus driver and Little League umpire pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to attempted enticement of a minor and was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison, prosecutors announced in a press release.
James Morris Jr., 70, of Cordova, admitted in his plea agreement that “his sexual abuse of minor victims spanned several decades, including during the time when he was chief of the Cordova Volunteer Fire Department,” according to the press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland. “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.
Morris is awaiting sentencing in six cases in Talbot County Circuit Court after pleading guilty in March to sexual offense and child pornography charges.
After accepting his guilty plea, U.S. District Judge George L. Russell III sentenced Morris to federal prison and ordered that, upon his release from prison, Morris must register as a sex offender in the places where he lives, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), according to the press release.
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,” U.S. Attorney Robert Hur said. “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 Sept. 29, 2017, Maryland State Police 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, according to federal prosecutors. The state police investigation led to a search warrant being served at Morris’ home on Nov. 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, according to the press release. 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 17-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 Nov. 3, 2017. During the conversation, Morris asked to visit the victim at his home in Virginia and requested a sexually explicit photo of the victim, which the victim provided to Morris.
Following the Nov. 30, 2017, search, Morris was charged in Talbot County with sodomy, second-degree sex offense, third-degree sex offense, child abuse and perverted practice. Those charges are related to the alleged abuse of a child who was 5 to 8 years old between 1990 and 1993, when the abuse is reported to have occurred.
He later was charged in five other cases in Talbot County and pleaded guilty on March 29 to a number of charges in those six case, according to online court records.
• He entered an Alford plea to one count of second-degree sex offense in the case charging him with sexual abuse between 1990 and 1993.
• He pleaded guilty to second-degree sex offense in a case charging him with abuse between 1984 and 1985.
• He entered Alford pleas to two counts of second-degree sex offense for a case involving abuse from 1990 to 1997.
• He pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree sex offense for offenses that occurred between 1990 and 1991.
• He entered an Alford plea to child porn:solicit subject in November 2017 in a case involving the 17-year-old Virginia boy.
• He pleaded guilty to possessing child porn on Nov. 30, 2017.
Sentencing in those cases is set for Aug. 2 in Talbot County Circuit Court.
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, visit www.justice.gov/psc and click on the “Resources” tab on the left of the page.
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.