Man accused of causing crash that killed Pulaski County deputy to serve 14 years in prison

New River Valley News

PULASKI COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — A man will spend the next 14 years behind bars after pleading guilty to charges of manslaughter and driving under the influence in connection with the crash that killed Sgt. Perry Hodge, a member of the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, back in January.

Authorities say 26-year-old Michael Dominic Morris crossed the center line going north on Route 11 when he hit Hodge’s truck head-on just after 4 a.m. on Jan. 14. Hodge died at the scene of the crash.

Morris was booked into the New River Regional Jail on Jan. 26, facing charges of aggravated manslaughter, reckless driving, murder, and unauthorized use of a vehicle.

On June 10, Pulaski County Commonwealth’s Attorney Justin Griffith announced that the charges against Morris for felony aggravated manslaughter and felony reckless driving that resulted in a death were both certified to the Pulaski County grand jury for July.

However, Griffith said that the felony murder and unauthorized use of a vehicle charges were not prosecuted.

Then, on July 21, Morris pleaded guilty to aggravated involuntary manslaughter, but the felony reckless driving charge was amended to a misdemeanor charge for DUI in his guilty plea, according to Griffith.

According to records from the Pulaski County Circuit Court, Morris was sentenced on Wednesday, Nov. 10 to a total of 14 years in prison for the following charges:

  • Felony aggravated involuntary manslaughter:
    • Sentenced to 20 years in prison with six years suspended, for a total of 14 years in prison
  • Misdemeanor DUI:
    • Sentenced to one year in jail with one year suspended, for a total of zero years in jail

In addition, court records say that Morris will spend five years on probation after being released from prison.

Griffith shared the following statement with WFXR News on Wednesday following Morris’ sentencing:

On July 21, 2021, Michael Dominic Morris pled guilty and was found guilty of one count of Aggravated Involuntary Manslaughter and one count of Driving Under the Influence. As I have repeatedly said, our office did not enter into a sentencing agreement. He was sentenced by the Circuit Court today. On the Aggravated Manslaughter charge, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison and on the Driving Under the Influence charge, he was sentenced to 12 months in jail. He was ordered to serve 14 active years in prison. The low-end of his guidelines recommended an active sentence of 3 years and 3 months, mid-point of 6 years and high-end of 7 years and 7 months. The 14-year active sentence is an extreme upward deviation.

As I told the Court, how do you argue for justice in this case without sounding like you are saying Perry Hodge’s life is more valuable than others’ lives? What is unique in this case is the far and wide range of effects the Defendant’s choices had, beyond himself and Perry. The impact of Perry’s death has been felt by children meeting with counselors from the loss of their School Resource Officer to grown men and women who wear badges and guns falling to their knees in pain. Through our words, the Commonwealth demanded justice. I asked for severe justice for the taking of a life. That was the only thing acceptable to the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth had a duty to this community that Perry served; to the family and friends that Perry loved; to the school children and the law enforcement colleagues to whom he was a role model. 

The court listened to our arguments that the tremors of grief the Defendant’s choices made will last forever. That is why this case deserved the extreme upward deviation it received. The Court listened today, the Court understood, and it is my honor and privilege to say that Justice was served.

In closing, it is important to our office that the public never forget the man we lost that day. Perry Hodge’s devotion and dedication to this community and his family are unmatched. His contributions are immeasurable as is the loss of his life. Perry Hodge never flinched in his duty. This community should never flinch in their memory of Perry Hodge. I will never flinch in the pursuit, the pursuit of justice. We were blessed to be the voice in the courtroom today.

Justin L. Griffith, Pulaski County Commonwealth’s Attorney

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