December sentencing set in racially motivated assault
A man accused of shouting racial epithets while pointing a gun with a laser sight at his Hispanic neighbors entered no-contest pleas on Tuesday to charges of racially motivated assault with a deadly weapon and abuse of an elderly person.
Thomas Morris, 59, isn’t admitting the charges, but is acknowledging that he could suffer a worse penalty than the aggregate 17 years he currently faces.
Morris came into court on Monday seeking at least three weeks to think about a plea agreement. However, prosecutor Matthew Johnson objected to the delay, saying the victims in the Sept. 11 incident that led to Morris being arrested were in the courtroom.
Attorney Matthew Ence said Morris wanted more time to think about a plea offer under which prosecutors would recommend the abuse charge be treated as a gross misdemeanor at sentencing. The charge could also be treated as a felony that carries up to a five-year sentence.
Morris was at the center of several incidents in the Indian Hills neighborhood where he lived, Johnson said in arguing for a higher bail.
Deputies started responding to the Loyola home on July 4, when Morris and made several trips out there before the final straw on Sept. 11.
A couple was in their car when Morris climbed his fence and allegedly pointed a rifle with a laser sight at them around midnight and yelled “You want some of this?”
When the special weapons and tactics team responded to the home, Morris allegedly pointed a laser at deputies on the perimeter as he yelled about illegal aliens. He was taken into custody, Johnson said.
The first words Morris said when he first appeared in East Fork Justice Court were “I’m not prejudiced.”
He initially gave an address where he hadn’t lived in years.
Johnson said a red flag proceeding was underway in another court against Morris to take away his firearms.
After his arrest, Douglas County deputies confiscated the firearms at the Loyola address and later learned there was another cache of weapons at a Genoa home.
Johnson said that if Morris wasn’t going to follow through on the plea agreement that the offer would be withdrawn and that he was willing to go to trial in the case.
On Tuesday morning, Morris told the judge he wanted to take more time because he wanted to hire another attorney.
District Judge Tod Young entered a not guilty plea for him and set another hearing in November.
After a brief recess where he consulted with attorney Matthew Ence, Morris said it didn’t sound like he was going to get a better deal and Young delayed the arraignment until later in the afternoon.
A no-contest plea carries the same weight as a guilty plea in criminal court, but could be helpful to Morris should he face a civil case.
As part of the agreement, Morris will have to forfeit 18 firearms and ammunition bags, which included a Springfield M1A1 among other weapons.
Young ordered that Morris be held without bail until his Dec. 9 sentencing.