Monday, June 28, 2004

Deputy Ivan James Morris - Muskegon SD

On June 28, 2004, Muskegon County Sheriff Deputy Ivan James Morris assaulted his ex-girlfriend. According to reports the 6' 3", 280 pound sheriff deputy threw a drink at the 5' 2", 125 pound woman's head; grabbed her by the neck; and then pushed her to the ground. Both the victim and an eye witness told the police, that during the attack,  Morris said that he was going to kill her.  Deputy Morris was arrested and charged with misdemeanor domestic violence.

The victim was granted a personal protective order immediately following Deputy Morris' release from jail. However, Deputy Morris filed a petition to have the PPO terminated.

During the non-jury trial in November, Deputy Morris claimed that the victim attacked him. Morris testified that he grabbed his ex-girlfriend's arm and "threw her down"...but that he did so to protect himself. "She was going to hit me...To keep a person off me, that what I would do to anyone." 

The Judge obviously did not believe Deputy Morris' claim that he acted in self-defense, as he found Morris guilty of misdemeanor domestic violence.

Muskegon County Sheriff George Jerkas did not dismiss Deputy Morris from the Sheriff Department for: 1] The false testimony he gave during trial regarding a crime he committed; or 2] for the domestic violence assault.

As of 2012, Deputy Ivan James Morris was still employed at the Muskegon County Sheriff Department.

Sheriff's Deputy convicted on domestic violence charge
A Muskegon County jail guard has been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence.
November 17, 2004
By John S. Hausman
Muskegon Chronicle, MI

After a non jury trial Tuesday, Chief 60th District Judge Andrew J. Wierengo III found Sheriff's Deputy Ivan James Morris, 37, of 6389 Evanston guilty as charged of assault and battery/domestic violence, first offense.

Wierengo ordered a domestic violence assessment and scheduled sentencing for Dec. 28. The maximum possible sentence is 93 days in jail.

The case stemmed from a June 28 incident between the off-duty Morris and his 39-year-old ex-girlfriend during Muskegon Summer Celebration in the crowded Mike's Bar, 555 W. Western.

Witness testimony conflicted at Morris' trial, but by all accounts an angry confrontation between the two ended with Morris pushing or throwing the woman to the floor of the bar.

Prosecution witnesses called it an unprovoked assault that started with Morris throwing his drink on the back of the woman's head, then grabbing her by the neck and swinging her onto the floor.

Morris, on the other hand, testified he acted in self-defense. He said his drink spilled accidentally on the woman when his arm was jostled in the crowd while he was carrying it across the room. He said she then threw several drinks she was carrying at him, then started to swing her fist at him. He testified he grabbed her arm and "threw her down" to defend himself, causing her to fall. "She was going to hit me. ... To keep a person off me, that's what I would do to anybody," Morris testified.

No one testified to any visible injuries on the victim.

The judge said that even if he believed most of Morris' account, the deputy still overreacted and of assault. Wierengo noted the difference in size of the two people: Morris told the judge he is approximately 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 280 pounds and the woman is 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 120 pounds. "It was a force that seemed to me disproportionate to the situation," Wierengo said.

Afterward, Sheriff George Jurkas suspended Morris from his job as a jail guard for five days without pay. "It's unfortunate," Jurkas said of the situation. "Hopefully he'll put it behind him, and it won't happen again."

The sheriff said the discipline would have been more severe had the victim suffered injuries. Jurkas also noted that Morris, unlike road-patrol deputies, does not carry a firearm in the course of his job, meaning a misdemeanor conviction won't render him unable to do his work.was guilty

Sheriff's Deputy Ivan James Morris faces domestic violence charge
Friday, July 09, 2004
By John S. Hausman
Muskegon Chronicle, MI

A Muskegon County jail guard has been charged with domestic violence for allegedly throwing a drink at his ex-girlfriend's head, then grabbing her around the neck and pushing her, in a crowded Western Avenue bar last week during Muskegon Summer Celebration.

Sheriff's Deputy Ivan James Morris, 37, of 6389 Evanston was arraigned June 29 on the 93-day misdemeanor in front of visiting 60th District Judge Richard J. Pasarela, who set a $500 cash or surety bond. According to court records, Morris posted the bond June 30 and was released from the Ottawa County Jail, where he was transported after his arrest early June 29. Under the conditions of his bond, Morris was required to surrender all firearms to the Muskegon Police Department, to avoid contact with the alleged victim, her Burton Street residence and her place of employment, and to avoid alcohol and drugs. A pretrial conference was scheduled for 3 p.m. July 19 before 60th District Magistrate John Wiewiora.

The 39-year-old woman obtained a personal protection order the day of Morris' release, granted by Muskegon County Probate Judge Neil G. Mullally, also requiring Morris to stay away from her. According to court records, Morris filed a motion seeking termination of the order, and a hearing on that motion was scheduled for 11:15 a.m. July 16.

Sheriff George Jurkas said Morris will continue working as a corrections officer pending the outcome of the case. The sheriff said he made that decision on the advice of the county's human resources department. "Any type of disciplinary action will be taken afterthe case has gone through the judicial system," Jurkas said.

Jurkas said any discipline, if Morris is convicted, would have to follow rules spelled out in the county's labor contract with Teamsters Local 214, which represents the jail's corrections officers. Discipline could include suspension or termination, but firing would not be automatic. A misdemeanor conviction, unlike a felony record, does not bar a person from working as a deputy or police officer.

Because Morris is classified as a corrections officer-- not a law-enforcement officer, as road patrol deputies are classified -- his bond restrictions do not prevent him from doing his job, Jurkas said. Corrections deputies do not carry guns as part of their regular jail duties, and Morris will not do prisoner transports outside the jail while the firearmban continues, Jurkas said. The incident happened shortly before 11 p.m. the night of June 28 in Mike's Bar, 555 W. Western. The bar was crowded, with the festival under way across the street. A Muskegon police officer went to the bar after someone anonymously called 911 at 10:59 p.m. reporting a large number of people fighting.

According to a Muskegon police report in Morris' district court file, Morris was no longer in the bar when the Muskegon officer arrived. Four eyewitnesses-- the bar manager, two bartenders and a friend of the alleged victim -- told the officer that they saw the deputy enter the bar and push through a group of people to get at his ex-girlfriend, who was sitting at the bar with her back to him.

The eyewitnesses and the alleged victim said Morris then threw a drink at the back of her head. When she turned toward him, the 6-foot-3-inch, 270-pound deputy allegedly swore and yelled at the 5-foot-3-inch, 125-pound woman, "telling her that he was going to kill her," she told the Muskegon officer. While yelling, Morris allegedly grabbed her around the neck. The woman said she began to kick at him to defend herself, and he then allegedly began to push her backward while continuing to hold her neck. Other people in the bar then jumped on Morris and pulled him off and eventually kicked him out of thebar, several witnesses said.

The woman told police the two had dated for a short time, and that Morris "consistently harasses her by looking in her windows and following her around." She attributed it to his jealousy, claiming he had told her in the past that if he ever caught her with another man he would kill her.

A few minutes after 11 p.m., Morris called 911 from his cell phone, claiming the woman had assaulted him.

In a later interview, Morris told the officer he walked into the bar, saw his ex-girlfriend, walked past her and accidentally bumped arms with her, causing his drink to spill on her. He said she then "came up on me," causing him to grab her and push her away in self-defense. He said he felt threatened by her and that she had slapped him in the past. A friend of Morris' also told the investigating officer that he had seen the woman swinging her fists at Morris. Confronted with the other witnesses' reports of what happened, Morris replied that it was "possible" that he threw his drink at her but that he didn't remember it that way, adding that if that was what the witnesses said, "it must be what happened."

The Muskegon officer then arrested Morris, brought him to the police department's basement and made arrangements with sheriff's department command to book him. At Morris' request, he was given a breath test for alcohol, which showed a blood level of 0.061 percent, below the 0.08 percent level that's considered too intoxicated to drive legally.

The officer then took Morris to the Muskegon County Jail. A command officer told the Muskegon officer that the deputy would be transported to the Ottawa County Jail for lodging.

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