Eight years after first being charged with child rape and after completing a stint in the Navy and attending college in San Diego, attorneys for a former Montesano man were able to successfully get a plea deal to knock the felony charges down to a gross misdemeanor.
Peter Morrill, now 29, was 20 years old and was accused of having sex with a 14-year-old back in 2005. The sex was not forced but because of their ages, the rape statutes applied.
On Monday, the charges were reduced to fourth-degree assault and Superior Court Judge Gordon Godfrey sentenced him to 30 days of community service and a 334-day suspended sentence, which wouldn’t be served unless he violated the terms of the sentencing agreement. He was also fined $800 in fees and court costs.
“Often offenders come before the court and promise that they will turn their lives around,” Interim Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Katie Svoboda wrote in her sentencing statement. “In this case, the defendant can show the court proof that he has done so. Since the time of the charge, the defendant has served in the Navy and he was honorably discharged, He is now enrolled in college in California, has been on the row team and will earn a business degree in 2015. He has no other criminal matters on his record.
“The victim in this case is now 23 years old and does not want to pursue this case further,” Svoboda wrote to the court. “She has moved on in her life and has expressed to counsel that she was surprised this matter was still pending. There was no force or coercion in this case. … Considering all the facts and circumstances of this case, there is no purpose in the defendant being a convicted felon or registered sex offender. Yet, the plea will hold him accountable.”
Erik Kupka, Morrill’s attorney, said Morrill talked with his superior officers about the charges back when a warrant was first issued, but was ordered not to come home and address the issue. He was arrested in a federal warrant sweep earlier this year and the Marshals Service paid for a member of the Sheriff’s Office to fly down to San Diego and pick him up from the prison
“It was a huge moral dilemma for me to continue my military obligation, or to return to take care of the problem I had caused,” Morrill told Judge Godfrey.
“This just establishes what I thought when I was in the Navy,” Godfrey said. “Those officers didn’t know what they were talking about, either. … Don’t screw up again, sailor.”
Morill was honorably discharged in 2009 and qualified for a 20 percent disability for an injury he suffered while on a training mission.
The plea deal also quashes the eight-year-old warrant as though it never existed so he wouldn’t face any kind of violations for not going before the court. Without the warrant being quashed, he would have owed the Department of Veterans Affairs $8.018 in disability benefits, Kupka said.