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Griffith: bail would be ‘treason of peace’

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

Granting bail for the man charged with felony murder in the traffic death of a Pulaski County deputy would amount to “treason of peace on Pulaski County,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Justin Griffith told a judge Wednesday.

Judge Frederick King agreed with the prosecutor that setting bail for 26-year-old Michael Dominic Morris would not only pose a danger to Morris’ wellbeing, but the community as a whole. As such, he denied a bail motion filed by defense attorney Rob Dean.

Authorities allege Morris had heroin in his system when his pickup truck crashed head-on into Sgt. Perry Hodge’s personal truck just after 4 a.m. Jan. 14. Hodge, who was off duty, died at the scene of the Route 11 crash.

Morris was hospitalized about a week and contends he needs to be released from custody at New River Valley Regional Jail because he is unable to receive proper therapy and pain medication there. The jail’s health services administrator disagreed, saying Morris’ doctor did not order pain medications or therapy.

Morris is charged with felony murder; aggravated involuntary manslaughter; reckless driving with a suspended license, resulting in death, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

Griffith said the wreck that claimed Hodge’s life wasn’t Morris’ first wreck. During a bail hearing in Pulaski County General District Court, Griffith pointed out the defendant hit a school bus in Pulaski County in 2019.

Griffith recited a list of 20 convictions, two wrecks and 17 traffic stops in four localities on the defendant’s criminal history and driving records. Most have been racked up since 2018.

The list begins in August 2011, when Morris was charged and convicted in Montgomery County of reckless driving by speeding 20 mph or more over the speed limit. Similar convictions continue over the years:

•August 2016, speeding 15 to 19 mph over the speed limit in Pulaski County;

•June 2018, speeding 10-14 mph over the speed limit in Pulaski County;

•April 2019, speeding 10-14 mph over the speed limit in Pulaski County, and

•November 2019, speeding 15-19 mph over the speed limit in Carroll County.

Griffith pointed out Morris was charged with reckless driving upon hitting the school bus May 26, 2019. Just five days later Morris was charged again locally with reckless driving. Morris was later convicted of improper driving in the bus wreck and reckless driving in the subsequent stop.

Morris was citied for having an expired registration and rejection sticker Oct. 30, 2019 in an incident Griffith said was reported on the defendant’s driving record as involving a wreck.

On Feb. 1, 2020 Morris was charged with failure to yield the right of way in Pulaski County, and later convicted. The defendant was charged Aug. 10, 2019 with having unsafe equipment on his vehicle; Feb. 1, 2020 with not having taillights; Aug. 16, 2018 with driving an uninspected vehicle and Feb. 28, 2020 with insufficient tire tread. All charges later resulted in convictions.

Morris has a conviction for driving with a suspended license in February 2020 and three convictions for not wearing a seatbelt — once in August 2018 and twice in August 2019.

Also, Griffith pointed out the defendant has been charged and convicted repeatedly with having illegal window tinting on his vehicle Feb. 6, 2018; March 27, 2018; May 31, 2019; July 9, 2019; Aug. 10, 2019; Aug. 13, 2019; Feb. 1, 2020, and Feb. 28, 2020.

In denying bail, Judge King said Morris shows no respect for Virginia laws or responsibilities as an adult.

King was appointed to handle the case. Pulaski County judges recused themselves due to Hodge having been an employee of the county.

Morris’ preliminary hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. May 13.

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