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speaking up I know just how terrifying it is to report a sexual assault

September 30, 2018

I reported it. I was a young prosecutor. He was a police sergeant. I did not want to do this. I had ambitions. I was well liked among law enforcement. I told myself that what he did to me was not worth the cost I would incur by exposing him.

Two police detectives convinced me otherwise by telling me about sexual assault investigations involving Sgt. Morgan. Two women worked with him. Another was a private citizen. One incident occurred when he trapped the woman in a bathroom at the office. Another occurred when he asked a female officer to accompany him on a search warrant. He arrived at her home to pick her up. When she returned from another room to get her purse he was naked. Both women were discredited.

What he did to me was not nearly as bad. One late night he called me, making clear he knew where I lived. He said I needed to have a sex with a black man. Morgan had no reason to think I agreed to this. I told him my boyfriend was a police officer and on his way over. I said that if he found Morgan there he would kick his ass. I was dating an officer but he was working that night. I told my boyfriend and my parents about the call.

Two detectives came to see me. They were my friends and had heard from a mutual friend what had happened. After much persuasion I signed an affidavit. They hoped it would bolster the claims of the other women. They were wrong. Nothing happened for close to a decade.

Years later as a judge, I heard that my name had come up in litigation involving this police Department. My affidavit was being used as leverage to get cases settled where white officers were passed over for promotion in favor of Morgan.

Morgan became Interim Police Chief and was on the short list to become Chief. He was discrediting accusers including officers who had investigated him. I became aware that those officers’ jobs were in jeopardy

The stakes were bigger now. I had even higher ambitions. Morgan was poised to become the city’s first black police chief. Many friends and allies were supporting him. A decade later I knew that I would pay an even bigger price for going public.

I cried as I told my story to the editor of the Galveston Daily News. I told him what records to look for including a memo a detective wrote outlining Morgan’s history of offenses. I said that the paper could use my name. But I had one condition. One of the women Morgan attacked was running for office. I did not want her name to come out. I did not want her smeared while she was running.

My name appeared in news stories about Morgan day after day. I was attacked by political and law enforcement persons and organizations I had counted as friends and allies. I was accused of being a racist. I would have done nothing differently had the perpetrator been white. I have always publicly stood up for racial equality. Pressure was put on me to back off of my allegations. Threats were made and I was scared.

The news coverage lead to a new case being uncovered. Concurrent to the coverage Morgan was forcing a newly hired female officer to have sex. The Galveston County Criminal District Attorney’s Office took this case to a grand jury. Before an indictment could be returned Morgan agreed to a misdemeanor charge in exchange for surrendering his badge.

Many refused to believe the allegations until Morgan pleaded guilty. His word mattered and ours did not. I have prosecuted, defended and judged many men of sexual crimes. Some allegations are true and some are false. To falsely accuse is a horrible crime. Sexual assault, attempted sexual assault and threatening to commit sexual assault are horrible crimes. Allegations should be carefully and thoroughly investigated. The decision of whether to prosecute should be based on evidence not power.

I know why women delay or refuse to report sexual crimes or harassment. I know how terrifying it is to report that a powerful man committed this type offense. I know the cost born by the victim for not remaining silent. I know the agony of being compelled to stop a powerful perpetrator from continuing to get away with it.

And I believe Christine Blasey Ford.

Criss, a Galveston attorney, is a former state district judge and former prosecutor.

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