Racially motivated assault leads to 12 years in prison
A drunken Indian Hills man who terrorized his neighbors with a rifle was sentenced to up to 12 years in prison on Friday.
Thomas Morris, 59, received a 28-72 month sentence for assault with a deadly weapon and consecutive 28-72 months because District Judge Tod Young found the crime was racially motivated.
“This offense is at its core motivated by the race of the victims and their heritage,” Young said.
Young pointed out that if a white couple had been parked in the street on Sept. 11, Morris would not have been pointing a rifle at them.
While the couple is of Hispanic heritage, both are Nevada natives and U.S. citizens.
Witnesses testified that Morris would come out into the front yard of the home on Loyola in Indian Hills a couple of times a week and yell obscenities and racial epithets.
On Sept. 11, his neighbor was parked in front of her home with her boyfriend when they heard Morris yelling at them and then the victim said she heard a click. She testified she could see the dot on her boyfriend’s chest.
“I thought he was going to kill my boyfriend, or me,” she said.
She told dispatchers that she was so frightened her legs were shaking.
Morris was arrested after the Special Weapons and Tactics team responded to the Loyola home.
Morris was also convicted of abuse of an elderly person for beating his roommate.
During the investigation, it was noticed that the elderly woman appeared to have been seriously beaten.
She signed a complaint and obtained a restraining order, but on Friday she tried to recant.
She denied that Morris pressured her into funding his new defense team, despite being played recordings of jailhouse phone conversations in which he clearly was attempting to influence her to lend him money and to testify on his behalf.
At one point he can be heard saying that if she didn’t give him the money, she would be pushing him off a cliff.
Prosecutor Matt Johnson said he didn’t even know that Morris was trying to influence the victim until he was given notice by defense attorneys that she would be a witness on his behalf.
“I’ve never had a victim become a defense witness,” he said.
Attorneys Joe Laub and Jordan Morgenstern were hired to represent Morris at his sentencing.
Morris pleaded no contest to the charge, which carries the same weight as a conviction.
A psychiatric evaluation indicated Morris was at moderate risk to reoffend, but Morgenstern argued that he could be put on probation with close supervision.
Laub said that if he steered clear of alcohol Morris would be unlikely to reoffend.
Morris said he didn’t know the couple in the vehicle were neighbors.
“They’re making me into a monster,” he said. “It was a mistake I made. I know in my heart I’m not a racist.”
Johnson argued for the consecutive prison sentences to send a message to the world that behavior is not acceptable in Douglas County.
Morris was found guilty of gross misdemeanor abuse of an elderly person, which could have been treated as a felony.
Young said he considered doing that but didn’t want to undercut attorneys’ ability to negotiate a case.
“You beat her for an extended period of time,” Young said to Morris. “You engaged in a gross level of manipulation that it was less important that she got hurt. You suggested she lie and then manipulated money out of her. But for the negotiations, I would give you the felony.”
Morris will served his jail sentence before going to prison. He was given credit for 98 days time served.