Pittsburg County community in disagreement over sheriff's embezzlement charge

PITTSBURG COUNTY, Okla. — Pittsburg County Commissioners voted to let a judge decide whether the sheriff keeps his job.

Sheriff Chris Morris, who’s been the sheriff for almost eight years, was charged with embezzlement last week.

FOX23 went to McAlester to find out what happened.

The room wasn’t very big, but it was jampacked, and people definitely showed up to support the sheriff.

Not long after the room filled up, the three Pittsburg County Commissioners wanted to talk in private, in executive session.

Turned out all the people who showed up came to support Morris. He didn’t want to talk, but Jessica Gilliam did.

“I’m here in support of him because he’s done a lot for community members of our county,” Gilliam said. “Especially the work with children.”

Gilliam said Morris was one of the main people who made it so children don’t have to testify in open court so they don’t have to face their perpetrators

“My son had a smile on his face for the first time in years because he treats him like a human being instead of a junky,” said another resident, Susanne Carney.

Carney said her son’s in jail now and struggles with drug addiction and mental health issues.

“Oh gosh, without this man my son would be dead,” she said. “I’m a mom and I owe so much to him for caring.”

We asked Carney what she thinks about the embezzlement accusation?

“I don’t know about all that. That’s something I haven’t researched,” she answered.

Morris faces a felony embezzlement charge over buying and selling a couple of ATVs. It said this all started when the Pittsburg County clerk gave information she had to the district attorney.

The affidavit claims “Morris didn’t like his Polaris side by side because it had already broken down and he needed to find a way to get out from under it.”

It continues saying he sold it to the business, Vicar’s Powersport, then the sheriff’s office bought the Polaris for an “inflated value.”

Court documents claim after getting a “higher trade in value,” Morris could then buy a new ATV “at a reduced price.”

The affidavit says “Morris defrauded the county and personally benefitted from the transaction.”

FOX23 called Vicar’s Powersports to see if anyone there wanted to do an interview. They said no.

When commissioners came back from executive session, Morris’ attorney said he’s innocent until proven guilty.

“We believe he will be found not guilty,” the attorney said. “We believe he will be vindicated and acquitted at some point.”

His attorney also pointed out that this is all happening with Morris running for reelection.

“We have an election in four weeks,” the attorney said. “People have a right to make that choice on their own.”

Commissioners want a court to decide if Morris should keep his job.

The Wagoner County’s District Attorney was appointed to this case by the Oklahoma Attorney General.

“I hate it for the county, but with evidence presented, it was hard not to,” said Ross Selman concerning their decision to move this investigation further.

Selman said the county resident’s support for the sheriff didn’t make their decision any easier or harder.

“I appreciate their concerns. Until now this public record. They didn’t know what we knew when making the call. If they read what we read, the evidence, they would probably understand why we did what we did.” he said.

“We’ll just have to work through the process and show our support. I feel like he’s a good person,” Gilliam said.

Within five days, the judge will make a decision whether the sheriff will be suspended or not. We’ll let you know what happens.

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