Retired Charlottesville plumber found guilty of raping neighbor sentenced

Retired Charlottesville plumber found guilty of raping neighbor sentenced

The retired Charlottesville plumber recently convicted of raping a neighbor received a stack of written testimonials and loads of vocal praise from friends and family last Thursday, but it was not enough to stave off a decadelong jail sentence.

Circuit Judge Claude Worrell ruled that 69-year-old Gary David Morris must serve 10 years of the full 30-year sentence.

“It isn’t lost on the court that there is a courtroom full of people here,” said Worrell, peering out at about 50 supporters, a dozen of whom testified at the sentencing hearing.

Yet Worrell said he was guided by the fact that a jury weighed the evidence and convicted Morris in March.

“We had a trial on this,” said Worrell.

Morris’s attorney Scott Goodman urged Worrell to set aside the verdict by claiming the alleged victim’s story about what happened July 10, 2022, was unbelievable. She said at trial that Morris, her longtime Fifeville neighbor, heeded her request to troubleshoot a leaky shower but then suddenly violated her with an erect penis. She said he accomplished this by quickly pulling down her spandex running shorts, and she said that she was too stunned to speak.

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Gary David Morris


“Your honor, that doesn’t make any sense,” said Goodman. “It’s incredible.”

“Prove it,” replied the judge. “Prove to me or anyone that her response is inherently incredible.”

The judge focused on the victim’s silence amid the alleged attack.

“There is no set way that victims respond to a sexual assault,” said Worrell. “The jury believed [her] beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Goodman reminded the judge about his client’s trial testimony, that he had gone more than a decade without an erection and the the alleged victim was the actual aggressor. Morris said the woman was drunk and that she disrobed, put lubricant on her vagina, and invited him to have sex with her. When he declined, he said she urged him not to tell his stepson, a friend of hers.

“Why isn’t that inherently incredible?” the judge asked.

During closing arguments, Goodman continued his attack on the trial, which included no physical evidence or other corroboration. Goodman said there would be protest marches outside the courthouse if a Black man were similarly convicted.

“And I would be in those marches,” said Goodman.

“Just because 12 people said it doesn’t mean it’s right,” Goodman continued. “The system can fail, and the system can be wrong.”

But Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania defended the verdict by noting the typically furtive nature of sexual assaults.

“They happen in darkness,” said Platania. “They don’t happen out in the open.”

Platania asked the court to file the written victim impact statement under seal, but he did quote this line from it: “I struggle daily with healing and moving forward.”

Except for an advocate from the city’s victim assistance program sitting beside her in the front row, the alleged victim had no one supporting her during the hourslong hearing. By contrast, there were eight rows of friends and family of the man nicknamed “Fish.”

“There is no history of aggression in Gary’s background,” testified his Raleigh, North Carolina-based sister-in-law Julia Dovel.

“If I were only allowed one word to describe Gary, it would be gentle,” said Frances Morris, another sister-in-law.

Another person named Frances Morris, the wife of the convicted man, also testified.

“I know Gary would not and did not commit this crime,” she said. “He’s not capable of it, physically. If you have the authority to reverse this verdict, Judge Worrell, I beg you to do it.”

As Morris was led away by a bailiff, his wife cried out.

“I love you, and I believe you,” she said. “You did not do this.”

Hawes Spencer (434) 960-9343

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