Startling human trafficking case whittled down to 1 charge

Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY, UT (KSL) — A case that began with startling allegations of human trafficking was whittled down to a plea of no contest for a single count of attempted forcible sexual abuse.

A handwritten note on plea documents filed in 8th District Court earlier this month say Jared Stephen Morgan, 38, wrote that prosecutors could prove the elements of the single offense and “I am relieving the state of that burden through my no contest plea.”

Morgan, of Sandy, was originally charged in September 2016 with five first-degree felonies: aggravated human trafficking, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, rape, and forcible sodomy.

Prosecutors alleged at the time that Morgan had held an 18-year-old woman captive in a shed for weeks in 2014, forcing her to perform sex acts to receive food and water. He was also accused of taking the victim to his parents’ house in Sandy and raping her while holding a Taser to her head, according to court documents.

In February, just prior to a preliminary hearing, prosecutors amended the charges, dropping the human trafficking charge as well as allegations of rape and forcible sodomy.

Morgan was charged instead with five counts of forcible sexual abuse and one count of aggravated kidnapping, first-degree felonies. Following the woman’s testimony during the preliminary hearing, a judge found there was probable cause to support the allegations and ordered Morgan to stand trial.

Prosecutors amended the charges again on Sept. 7 as part of Morgan’s plea deal, a week before a jury trial was set to begin, leaving him facing just one count of attempted forcible sexual assault, a third-degree felony.

Morgan was sentenced the same day. A sentence of up to five years in prison was suspended and Morgan was ordered to spend a year in jail, with credit given for the time he has served since his arrest. Upon release, Morgan is to complete 36 months probation.

Prosecutors at the time noted that Morgan is still facing charges of sexually abusing two young girls in Sandy. He is currently in custody in Salt Lake County Jail with bail set at $1 million.

Search warrants unsealed in the Duchesne case revealed that a victim in a dismissed 2012 Salt Lake County case had resurfaced. In December, new charges were filed against Morgan in 3rd District Court in connection with the girl, as well as her sister.

That case is ongoing. Morgan is charged with three counts of sodomy on a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child, forcible sodomy, six counts of rape, and three counts of aggravated sexual assault — all first-degree felonies. He was also charged with kidnapping and distribution of a controlled substance, second-degree felonies.

He is next scheduled to appear in court Sept. 25 in West Jordan.

According to the charges, in 2005 Morgan began dating a Sandy woman who had two daughters. By 2006, he was sexually abusing both girls, ages 12 and 14 at the time, the charges state.

The girls’ family claimed Morgan “was able to ‘sink his hooks’ into (the girl) and (her sister)” by showering them with gifts and drugs, according to court documents.

By 2012, the mother discovered what was happening and Morgan was charged. But after he was charged with abusing one of the daughters, the girl ran away with him, the charges state. Morgan is accused of hiding her in Idaho and Arizona until she turned 18.

After the girl turned 18, she returned to Utah and in 2014 asked authorities to take her off the missing persons database and still refused to cooperate with Sandy police, according to the department. It wasn’t until after the girl met the victim in Duchesne County and Morgan was arrested that she agreed to cooperate, according to investigators.

Morgan’s brother, David Morgan, is also charged in 3rd District Court in connection with the two sisters. He is charged with sexual exploitation of a minor, a second-degree felony. He also faces charges of unlawful sexual activity with a minor and two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year-old, all third-degree felonies.

Prosecutors claim that in 2008, one of the sisters was “pawned” off to David Morgan when she was 14, and the man continued to abuse her. Investigators found evidence of the abuse recorded on David Morgan’s cellphone, charges state.

A two-day jury trial for David Morgan is scheduled for Nov. 6 and 8, with a final pretrial conference on Oct. 30. He is in custody in Salt Lake County Jail with bail set at $200,000.