MACON - A former youth softball umpire arrested during "Operation End Game," a multi-agency effort targeting and arresting adult perpetrators seeking sex with children, was sentenced to prison and will not be allowed to have contact with children without supervision, said Charles "Charlie" Peeler, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.
James Hughes Morriss, 50, of Dacula, entered a guilty plea on Nov. 19, 2019 to one count of use of facilities in interstate and foreign commerce to transmit information about a minor, and was sentenced to 46 months in prison on Wednesday, Feb. 12 by U.S. District Court Judge C. Ashley Royal. There is no parole in the federal system.
In addition, once his prison sentence is served, Morriss will be under terms of court supervision that prohibit him from having contact or working with minors without supervision, and his use of the internet and cellular devices will be monitored by the court. Morriss will also be required to register as a sex offender.
"Law enforcement in Georgia is aggressively working to find and arrest adults preying on children, and our office will vigorously prosecute perpetrators to the maximum extent of the law," said Peeler. "As a softball umpire, this individual intentionally positioned himself to be around youth. I comment the GBI, FBI and the Athens-Clarke County Police Department for stopping this individual, and for yet another excellent operation protecting Georgia's children."
"Operation End Game" was a three-day proactive effort centered in Athens beginning July 25, 2019 to arrest adults communicating with children online and then traveling to meet them for the purpose of having sex. On July 26, an undercover officer communicating with perpetrators online under a profile named "Lizzie" with the photo fo a young girl, received notification in the mobile application "Skout" from an individual later identified as Morriss. Within the first few exchanges, Morriss, who was 49 at the time, asked "Lizzie" her age and was told she was only 14 years old and attended a school in Georgia. Morriss, familiar with many schools in Georgia due to his work around the state as a youth softball umpire, recognized the named school.
Morriss initiated a sexually explicit discussion and suggested an in-person meeting with the child; he also requested and receives photos of the purported 14-year-old. Morriss then traveled to meet the 14-year-old girl in Athens for sexual purposes, and was arrested at the designated meeting place shortly after midnight on July 27.
"Operation End Game did exactly what it was tasked to do: Put an end to criminal attempts of predators to irreversibly harm young children<' said Debbie Garner, GBI Special Agent in Charge and Commander of the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. "The GBI and the Georgia ICAC Task Force will work tirelessly with our partners to protect our children against those who seek to harm them."
The case was investigated by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Georgia, the Georgia ICAC Task Force, the GBI's Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, the FBI, and the Athens-Clarke County District Attorney's Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Lyndie Freeman prosecuted the case for the government.