TRAVERSE CITY — Marc Morris formally admitted his criminal behavior in court, and Kelly Hall is relieved.
Morris, a former East Middle School custodian, had repeated sexual contact with a female student, then 13, beginning in early 2010. Morris’ behavior and fallout from it placed tremendous stress on Traverse City Area Public Schools, said Hall, the district’s school board president.
“It’s been a very, very hard time for the school. Trust was broken in the worst possible way,” she said. “When the defendant pleads guilty, I think that there’s a sense of relief, in that the admission of wrongdoing allows us to move on.”
Morris, 29, was charged in August, and on Tuesday pleaded guilty to two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person 13 to 15. Three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct were dismissed as part of the deal.
He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, but likely will receive a term between four and eight years based on state sentencing guidelines.
Morris is set to be sentenced Oct. 19. He remains in jail without bond.
Police said Morris — the son of former TCAPS board president Gerald Morris — had an “ongoing sexual relationship” with a girl who was a student at East Middle School while Morris worked there.
The sexual encounters happened multiple times near an East Bay Township trail and in Morris’ East Bay Township home, court records show. They appeared consensual, police said, but Michigan law prohibits anyone under the age of 16 from legally consenting to sexual activity.
Perhaps the biggest upside to Morris’ plea is that the victim won’t have to testify during a trial, Hall said. The situation likely would have been extremely stressful and difficult for the girl.
“Nobody wants a kid to have to go through that,” she said.
The plea also came as good news to Superintendent Steve Cousins.
“I think it’s good that this situation can be put to rest, and the student and family can begin the healing process,” he said.
The plea was held early Tuesday after Monday discussions, court officials said. The plea was tacked onto a day dedicated to civil proceedings.
Pleas aren’t often held at 8 a.m. or scheduled on non-criminal days, but assistant prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg, who handled the case, said the time and day were prompted by Morris’ attorney’s schedule and not intended to avoid media exposure.
Morris attorney, Patrick Heintz, didn’t return a call for comment.
Moeggenberg said the plea likely is what’s best for the victim.
“This is going to be easier for her to deal with, not having to get on the stand,” she said.
The fallout from Morris’ arrest also resulted in suspensions for two TCAPS administrators. Cousins suspended Cindy Berck, the district’s director of human resources, for a week without pay. She approved the hiring of Marc W. Morris as a custodian at East Middle School, and Cousins said that hiring violated the district’s nepotism policy.
TCAPS' written policy prevents children of school board members to be hired on a permanent basis, yet Marc Morris was elevated to permanent status a month before Gerald Morris left the school board in December 2008. Gerald Morris spoke with Berck about the hiring before Marc Morris was hired, though she denied he put pressure on her to hire him.
Marc Morris eventually was fired in July 2011 after he came to work drunk.
Cousins also suspended Cathy Meyer-Looze, TCAPS director of professional development and former principal at East Middle School, for two weeks without pay. He said she failed to aggressively pursue and document misconduct allegations against Marc Morris when he worked at the school.
Both suspensions came after the Record-Eagle reported that the district violated its own nepotism policy by hiring Morris, and that district officials documented six separate incidents of inappropriate behavior by Morris. That documentation was compiled after he was fired.
The district hopes to prevent future issues with both nepotism and inappropriate contact between students and district employees, Cousins said.
Gerald Morris declined comment on Wednesday.
News Editor GLENN PUIT contributed to this report.
TRAVERSE CITY — Marc Morris formally admitted his criminal behavior in court, and Kelly Hall is relieved.
Plane returns to Cherry Capital
A Delta Airlines flight returned to Cherry Capital Airport minutes after takeoff because of a problem with the plane’s landing gear.Continued ...
Becoming the new voice of summer
Ernie Harwell was the voice of Detroit Tigers baseball. He was the voice of spring, the voice of summer, the voice of the outdoor barbecue with a transistor radio, the voice of the little kid listening to baseball after bedtime and the voice of theContinued ...
Theory and neighbors' sentiment collide on rezoning
TRAVERSE CITY -- City commissioners face a choice between following their housing ideology or bowing to residents who call a proposed development of four mid-priced houses both ludicrous and dangerous. Architect John Kerridge proposes to construct foContinued ...
Blair Elementary has new leader
Blair Elementary has new leader TRAVERSE CITY -- Blair Elementary School has a new leader in place for next school year. Traverse City Area Public Schools administrators selected Kirsten Jones-Morgan to replace Sharon Dionne, who will retire July 1.Continued ...
Leelanau Peninsula Chamber to get new website
Leelanau Chamber to get new website TRAVERSE CITY -- It's time for a makeover for the Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce's website. Leelanau County Commissioners voted to allocate up to $10,000 in 2 percent grant money earmarked for economic devContinued ...
19th century skull returned to Band for ceremony
TRAVERSE CITY -- One Leelanau County family heirloom will no longer be passed down to the next generation. Sheriff Mike Borkovich said a family who did not want to be named gave his office a human skull that had been in the family for years. An elderContinued ...
- Friday, April 18, 2014
Flight returns to Cherry Capital
TRAVERSE CITY — A Delta Airlines flight returned to Cherry Capital Airport minutes after takeoff because of a problem with the plane's landing gear.Continued ...
Attorney files for reorganization
TRAVERSE CITY -- A prominent Traverse City attorney's law practice remains open after he sought bankruptcy protection amid a lengthy and potentially costly legal battle with a former client. Clarence Gomery, of Gomery Law Offices, said his April 2 baContinued ...
Kalkaska fire destroys rentals
TRAVERSE CITY -- Fire tore through an apartment building in the south end of the Village of Kalkaska. Kalkaska County Sheriff David Israel said he didn't think anyone was seriously injured or killed in the Thursday afternoon blaze, but the entire buiContinued ...
Trojans capture Up North Invite
From staff reports TRAVERSE CITY -- Traverse City Central won seven of eight flights Thursday to capture the Up North Invitational. The Trojans finished with 23 points, Petoskey 15, Cadillac 9 and Traverse City West 1. Central's winners included: PaiContinued ...
Kalkaska County Board Chair to resign
TRAVERSE CITY -- Kalkaska County's longest-serving commissioner will resign at the end of the month. Debra Kimball, who represents Kalkaska Township, but not the village, stepped down from her position as board chair at a meeting Tuesday night. She mContinued ...
Kalkaska honors Dewey, Sieting
KALKASKA -- Rodger Dewey started his insurance agency in a Mancelona train car in 1971. It was the only office space left in town. Dewey and his family have since moved the business to a building in Kalkaska, guided it through the dawn of computers,Continued ...
Clearing the Record 04/18/2014
Because of incorrect information provided to the Record-Eagle, James Vernon Meadows' age was incorrectly reported in a Tuesday story about a multiple-injury vehicle crash in Antrim County. Antrim Sheriff Daniel Bean on Thursday said Meadows is 35.Continued ...
Caldwell sentenced in woman's death
TRAVERSE CITY -- A Traverse City man who said he accidentally shot his girlfriend to death in a failed suicide attempt will serve a sentence of about 11.5 to 19 years, the maximum sentence. Robert Lee-Allen Caldwell, 33, plead guilty to involuntary mContinued ...
Titans split twinbill at Grand Haven
From staff reports GRAND HAVEN -- Max Ludka collected two hits, scored three runs and drove in one as Traverse City West beat Grand Haven 15-9 in the first of two games. Jake Dean earned the win in relief. Wes Talbot and Keegan Kenny each drove in twContinued ...
Acme decision: Lovett or leave it
TRAVERSE CITY -- Lyle Lovett concert posters decorate bulletin boards throughout Traverse City, but that may be as close as the country music artist and actor gets to town, if promoters can't swing a zoning permit. Lovett and His Large Band are schedContinued ...
GT board picks Gourdie-Fraser as engineer firm for county
TRAVERSE CITY -- Grand Traverse County's Board of Public Works selected the local firm that designed and built the county's long-troubled septage treatment plant to serve as its engineer of record for the next three years. Gourdie-Fraser Inc. beat ouContinued ...
Second NMC stabbing suspect pleads guilty
BY SARAH ELMS firstname.lastname@example.org Second NMC stabbing suspect pleads guiltyContinued ...
4 Non Blondes to reunite for 1 night at L.A. event
NEW YORK (AP) -- What's up with 4 Non Blondes? How about a one-night-only reunion? The '90s rock band will perform May 10 at "An Evening With Women" to benefit the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center. Linda Perry, the band's former lead singer and hit songwriContinued ...
- Thursday, April 17, 2014
Emails show NMC leaders made decisions outside public meetings
Northwestern Michigan College’s elected officials debated in a flurry of emails whether to televise their monthly board meetings, a behind-the-scenes decision-making process that altered some trustees’ public opposition and occurred outside the public eye.Continued ...
NMC president's email to college staff
Northwestern Michigan College President Tim Nelson sent the following email to college employees Tuesday afternoon:Continued ...
Michigan's Open Meetings Act
State lawmakers created Michigan’s Open Meetings Act to strengthen citizens’ ability to know what goes on in government, according to an OMA guide published by Michigan’s attorney general.Continued ...
Consultant: Architecture great, traffic a problem
Heads shook and shoulders drooped as the group approached one of the last stops on a tour of Eighth Street in Traverse City: the brick and barn-red sheet metal walls of an auto parts warehouse.Continued ...
Division Street residents stuck in sewer limbo
Division Street residents Bill Greene and James Begeman might live in Traverse City’s most unfortunate place for a sewer, as evidenced by a possible repair bill of more than $60,000 to fix their collapsed line.Continued ...
Millage to go on ballot at same rate
Leelanau County commissioners unanimously agreed to put a senior services millage on the August ballot. They approved language for a 4-year renewal at .275 mills.Continued ...
- Plane returns to Cherry Capital