Composite image with background photo of 5th District Court in St. George, Utah. Inset booking photo of Wayne Clarence Morris Jr. in Washington County, Utah, April 9, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News
ST. GEORGE — A traveling repairmen from Las Vegas was sentenced to federal prison following an arrest in Washington County last spring for attempting to meet up with a young girl during an active sting operation.
On Wednesday, 46-year-old Wayne Clarence Morris Jr. appeared in U.S. District Court via video for sentencing on one felony count of interstate travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct — a federal charge he pleaded guilty to in November.
Morris was arrested during an active operation by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Morris admitted that he went online and began communicating with what he believed was a 13-year-old girl that was actually an undercover agent posing as a teen.
From there, Morris continued communicating with the decoy through text message, asking the girl to send him nude photos of herself and then arranging to meet the teen at a specific location in Washington County. He also detailed the sexual act that would be performed when the meeting took place.
Agents learned that Morris works as a repair technician for a company in Las Vegas and travels as part of his job. He arranged the meeting so it coincided with a return trip from a repair appointment. It was when the defendant showed up at the prearranged location that instead of meeting a 13-year-old, he was met by police and arrested.
He was originally charged in 5th District Court with second-degree felony enticing a minor and third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. These charges were dismissed once Morris was indicted in federal court.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Reddish-Day said the government reached an agreement in the case that stipulated a 33-month prison sentence, a reduction that was based on Morris taking prompt responsibility for the actions that led to his arrest, which Day described as “quite disturbing.”
Day said the prosecution was grateful the incident did not involve an actual minor and instead utilized an undercover officer posing as a juvenile. She clarified by saying the fact there were only decoys involved does not minimize the risk the defendant poses to other children.
She mentioned that Morris had no prior history of any offenses relating to the underlying conduct that led to his arrest and added the defendant had only two minor misdemeanor convictions more than 15 years ago. As such, the government made a stipulated offer of 33 months in prison, which the defendant readily accepted.
The prosecutor also asked that Morris be placed on a minimum of 10 years’ post-prison supervision — a term designed to ensure the defendant does not reoffend or pose a risk to public safety — specifically towards any minor children in the community.
Morris’s defense attorney, Kenneth Combs, said the presentence report was well-prepared and asked the court to follow the stipulated sentence. He requested that Morris be placed on five years’ post-prison supervision, as opposed to 10 years.
Combs explained that by the time his client is released from prison, he will be 49 years old, reminding the court of his client’s significant health issues and asking that Morris be placed in a correctional facility that can provide the care he needs.
When it was time for the defendant to speak, Morris said the incident was the biggest mistake he has ever made in his life.
After complementing the defense and prosecution for coming up with their resolution, District Judge David Nuffer sentenced the defendant to serve 33 months in federal prison. He also ordered that Morris be placed on 10 years post-prison supervision upon his release.
The defendant was also ordered to surrender himself to the federal correctional facility by April 29.
Nuffer said he would request that Morris be placed in a facility as close to St. George as possible to facilitate family visitation, as well as provide adequate sex offender treatment and care for the defendant’s medical issues, which includes Brugada Syndrome, a rare and potentially life-threatening heart rhythm disorder that can cause fainting, seizures and other symptoms.
The judge also ordered Morris to register as a sex offender in each and every state in which he resides, works or studies.
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