Dexter L. Morris, Jr.
Dexter L. Morris, Jr.

Hamblen County Deputy Nailed for Civil Rights Violations

Compiled by Lewis Loflin

Here is a case where a sexual predator used his position as a law-enforcement officer to violate the civil rights of a number of women. Feral white male Dexter L. Morris, Jr. now faces some "consensual" sex he never counted on from the male inmates he'll be spending the next 15 years with. What is disturbing is this went on for years and all indications are his superiors knew something was wrong.

There was some questions at first of allowing "expert" testimony from a psychiatrist for the victims to testify, but it seems the most important witness was a 16-year-old girl. She just got her license and getting a ticket would draw the ire of her parents who weren't too happy about her being out anyway. It was the perfect setup for later the convicted sexual predator Deputy Morris.

She told jurors with tears in her eye, "He told me to lift my shirt up and my bra, so I did." She was just one of a series of witnesses testifying to everything from fondling to oral sex to rape in a police cruiser.

While his activities started in the Hamblen Country Jail, the complaints were ignored and he get promoted to patrolman. After all, what is the testimony of inmates worth? One inmate claimed he forced her to show her breasts to avoid a child endangerment rap that could have cost her custody of her kids, while another claimed he forced her to have oral sex over "a small amount of marijuana in her purse during a traffic stop."

But it seemed to be the 16-year-old that nailed to case. To quote Jamie Satterfield of the Knoxville New Sentinel June, 4, 2009:

She was headed home and had stopped for gas when she encountered Morris as he chatted with the cashier, she said. He followed her outside and got into his cruiser. "I had just got my license," she said. "I get nervous when a cruiser gets behind me, so I tried to wait for him to pull out first." He didn't and instead fell in behind her on an isolated stretch of the highway, where he stopped her and ordered her out of the car, she said.

Morris pretended to search her but fondled her instead, she said, and invited her to accompany him to a nearby park. She declined. After the girl filed a complaint, HCSO Lt. Ernest Burzell said Morris conceded he told the teenager, "What does a 16-year-old girl do to get those boobs?" and had no real cause to stop or search her. However, Morris kept his job, and Burzell did not mention any disciplinary action taken against Morris.

In the end the jury didn't buy into his claims of consensual sex and Judge J. Ronnie Greer sent him and other predators a strong message. What about Lt. Ernest Burzell, who did absolutely nothing, even when Morris told him why he went after the 16-year-old child?

U.S. Attorney's Office April 16, 2010

GREENEVILLE, TN-Dexter L. Morris, Jr., age 36, of Morristown, Tennessee, was sentenced to 188 months (15 years and eight 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. S 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. S 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. S 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 15 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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