Former Maryland Fire Chief Pleads Guilty and Admits to Abusing Minors While Chief

The former fire chief of the Cordova Volunteer Fire Department has been sentenced to 60 years in prison for sexually abusing minors, including while he served as chief. James Morris Jr., 70, pled guilty yesterday in US District Court to attempted enticement of a minor.

According to a press release issued by the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland:

  • Morris admitted that his sexual abuse of minor victims spanned several decades, including during the time when he was Chief of the Cordova Volunteer Fire Department.  The victims reported that they met Morris in a variety of ways, including through his role as a bus driver for the Talbot County Public Schools and as a Little League umpire.
  • “For decades, Morris preyed upon children using lies, deceit, and even more perversely, his community status,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Cardell T. Morant of HSI Baltimore. “This exploitation of a position of trust is an atrocity for which no sentence can bring sufficient justice and peace. However, we can be assured by this sentence that Morris will never again be free to victimize another innocent child.”
  • Maryland State Police (MSP) received a Cybertip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children alleging sexual abuse of multiple minor victims by a member of the Cordova Volunteer Fire Department, who was later identified as Morris. 
  • On March 29, 2019, Morris pleaded guilty in Talbot County Circuit Court to six sex offenses, including the sexual abuse of five separate victims beginning in the 1980s, as well as one count of possession of child pornography in 2017, and one count of solicitation of child pornography related to this case.  Sentencing in that case is scheduled for August 2, 2019.

Morris will be required to registered as a sex offender.

Here is the press release.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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