Superior Court Judge John Hickman sentenced Shawn Dee Morgan to at least 60 years in prison Friday for sexually abusing three young children.
Then the judge had some things to say to Morgan’s victims and their families.
“The jury believed you,” he told them.
He said they had testified about the unspeakable with poise and courage.
Hickman encouraged them to ask for help to process what had happened to them and reiterated that it was not their fault.
“Don’t let this person define your life,” he said. “Don’t look back.”
Jurors convicted Morgan of five counts of first-degree child rape and five counts of first-degree child molestation in December.
Before the sentencing, deputy prosecutor Erica Eggertsen described the abuse as “extreme and repeated” and noted that the victims were young: ages 5, 10 and 11.
In each case, Eggertsen told the court, Morgan sought trust of parents he knew and then abused it to violate their kids.
Hickman gave him 60 years to life, an exceptional sentence above the standard range.
Generally, that would mean that the state’s Indeterminate Sentence Review Board would decide when, or if he’d be released, after serving the minimum amount of time.
But given that Morgan is 45, that seems improbable, even if he earns time off for good behavior.
Defense attorney Bryan Hershman argued there wasn’t a basis for a sentence above the standard rage, the high-end of which was 26 and a half years.
He told the court that Morgan himself suffered sexual abuse as a child and noted that Morgan is “profoundly cognitively impaired.” Morgan’s mother and another of his attorneys said in court Friday that he’d been in a motorcycle wreck.
Morgan declined an opportunity to address the court.
According to court records, the abuse happened at various times from 2009 to 2015.
Investigators learned about it after Morgan’s girlfriend, who also was charged, told a counselor at a rehabilitation facility that she and Morgan had sexually abused a child.
That woman, 27-year-old Kierra Marie Hall, pleaded guilty to first-degree child molestation and three counts for first-degree child rape in September. Hall’s to be sentenced later this year.
Morgan was charged in 2016, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest, investigators publicized his photo, and he was later booked into jail.
Hickman said Morgan had groomed the children for abuse in a calculated way, had used his girlfriend as bait and that he had not shown remorse or sympathy.
The judge said Morgan’s behavior was inhuman and “boggles the mind.”
“It’s so far from human decency,” he said.
One of the victim’s mothers told the court that time in prison can’t bring back her child’s innocence.
Another victim wrote the court about Morgan: “I believe he deserves his full life in prison.”
That seems likely, given the judge’s sentence.