Friday, February 27, 2009

Law and Disorder in the Panhandle


Dhunk-dhunk. In Okaloosa County's criminal justice system, there are two separate yet equally important groups: the county sheriff, Charlie Morris, who investigates crimes and the county sheriff, Charlie Morris, who gets prosecuted for them. These are his stories:
Okaloosa County Sheriff Charlie Morris has been arrested on federal theft-bribery charges and suspended by Governor Charlie Crist.
* * *
Morris faces charges of theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, wire fraud, deprivation of rights to honest services, engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity and conspiracy to commit the aforementioned offenses.
Update
A Dothan, Ala. TV station is reporting, "Sheriff Morris was arrested by federal agents in Las Vegas, Nevada, and is expected to make an initial appearance in United States District Court for the District of Nevada Friday."
Thereafter, he is expected to be returned to the Northern District of Florida.

According to the complaint filed in federal court, Morris, with the assistance of his Director of Administration and Finance, [Teresa
] Adams, created fictitious bonuses to sheriff’s department employees.

The complaint alleges the employees were directed to return all or a portion of the bonuses in the form of cash and cashier’s checks under the pretense that these returned funds were to be used for charitable purposes.
More update
Morris currently is serving as President of the Florida Sheriff's Association.

Yet more update
According to older news reports, Sheriff Morris is a huge supporter of recently-resigned state senator Ray Sansom. Last month, the Destin Log reported, "Okaloosa County Sheriff Charlie Morris, a Republican, wrote that newspaper reports did 'not paint a true picture' of Sansom or his work to enhance public safety in Northwest Florida."

Sansom himself is presently under investigation for corruption charges by a Tallahassee grand jury.

Still more update
The U.S. Attorney's office press release confirming the arrests quoted, above, by the Dothan TV station, adds "A criminal complaint is merely a charging instrument. Each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in United States District Court."

OK. We're down with that. The sheriff is entitled to the presumption of innocence on all criminal charges. Absolutely.

But there's no reason to presume him smart. Directing employees to refund bogus "bonus" checks in cash? Would any deputy sheriffs, detectives, or investigators have thought something might be fishy with that? Ya' think?

1 comment:

Bryan said...

The Repubs kept voting for him, even though he was never in his office, and didn't spend all that much time in the county.

He's part of the good ol' boy network and you just can't get rid of them without an indictment, trial and, conviction.

Regarding deputies questioning him when he tells them to do something - never going to happen.