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Wake courtroom video catches accused rapist off guard

Posted July 29

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— A Clayton man accused of having sex with a 14-year-old girl thought he was in court Friday to possibly get out of jail on a lower bond when Wake County prosecutors produced a videotape that they say bolsters their case against him.

Phillip Scott Morris, 41, of 129 Hardaway Point, is charged with four counts of felony statutory rape of a child in connection with incidents that police say happened in May 2015.

Morris has been held in the Wake County jail under a $500,000 bond, and defense attorney David Cooledge argued during a Friday morning hearing that his bond should be lowered because Morris, a software engineer, is his family's primary breadwinner and isn't a risk to flee before trial.

"That’s not someone who’s going to run and not face his charges," Cooledge told Superior Court Judge Graham Shirley.

Wake County Assistant District Attorney Boz Zellinger then disclosed that the teen's neighbor had a video showing Morris sprinting up the driveway to the girl's house after checking that no one was looking and going inside. The neighbor was suspicious of Morris, telling authorities that a man often stopped by the house when the girl's aunt was away, so he set up a GoPro camera in the girl's garage.

After seeing Morris go into the house, the neighbor called police and then went into the home when officers arrived, Zellinger said.

"This defendant tried to go out the window when he was caught red-handed having sex with a 14-year-old," he said, adding that the girl was wearing only shorts and a bra.

The girl sobbed as she told police that she and Morris had had sex several times, saying she thought at one point that she loved him, Zellinger said. She said they would communicate via a cellphone hidden under her bed.

"The victim is incredibly stressed. She’s had a rough childhood, and this defendant took advantage of that," Zellinger said.

Cooledge argued that the GoPro video didn't prove anything, but Shirley declined to lower Morris' bond, saying he feared Morris would try to contact the girl if he were released.

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