Gerald V. Morris, 56, formerly of E. Seventh Street, pleaded no contest Wednesday in Tuscarawas County Common Pleas Court. This was a change from his original plea of not guilty that he entered in August to an indictment containing eight counts of rape, all first-degree felonies.
Judge Edward O'Farrell said during a hearing Wednesday that he communicated to Tuscarawas County Assistant Prosecutor Scott Deedrick and Morris' defense attorney, Tuscarawas County Assistant Public Defender Mark Perlaky, that six years was the sentence he felt was appropriate in the case.
With the plea change, Morris avoids a jury trial that was scheduled to begin Thursday.
Morris faced up to 44 years in prison. He is accused of raping the teen four times between March 29, 2015, and April 24, 2015. She subsequently gave birth to his child, according to a family member. A family member also told The Times-Reporter that the teenager was 16 years old at the time of the rapes. Deedrick said the crimes occurred in Dover.
Each criminal act Morris is charged with is the subject of two felony indictments.
One set of four charges alleges that Morris used force or threatened to use force to complete the rapes. The other set alleges that the acts were committed against a person who did not have the physical or mental capacity to resist or consent.
Though Morris is guilty of both set of charges, he can only be sentenced to one, because he cannot be sentenced twice for the same conduct, according to Deedrick. That would mean Morris could only be sentenced on four of the eight felonies he's charged with. The sentencing range for each offense is three to 11 years.
O'Farrell said he will sentence Morris to 6 years in prison on each of the four felonies. Those sentences will be served concurrently.
Morris will be eligible for parole after serving at least five full years. Once released from prison, he will have to complete five years of mandatory parole. Additionally, he will have to register as a Tier III sex offender. That means Morris will have to report his address to the sheriff of the county he lives in every 90 days for the rest of his life.
In October, Morris pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, to which he was ordered to undergo a competency exam by the Forensic Diagnostic Center of District Nine Inc., in Byesville. In January, Morris was declared to be competent to stand trial in the case.
Morris has remained out of jail on a recognizance bond. His freedom is contingent on continued compliance with a civil protection order that requires him to stay 500 feet from the teenager and her family.
Morris is scheduled to be sentenced in about six weeks.
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