Palm Beach Sheriff's Office Lt. Michael Morris -- AKA "Big Mike" -- was allegedly doing a favor for a friend when he tossed out a handful of traffic tickets last November. But the good deed ended up landing the Belle Glade district commander in hot water, charged with felony official misconduct.
The strange tale begins on November 5, 2010. Just before 11 p.m., Jamie Evans, 24, the daughter of the woman who does public relations for Belle Glade, was stopped by another sheriff's deputy for a traffic violation. Deputy Samnang Ith issued five citations against Evans, according to a probable-cause affidavit in the case, although it's unclear what laws Evans was accused of breaking.
Evans was upset by the incident. She later told her brother -- who happens to be a PBSO homicide detective -- that "she was stopped for no reason" and that Ith was "rude," the affidavit says.
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That night, Ith's superiors asked him to dismiss the citations, because Evans had filed a complaint alleging he was "discourteous" and had "made a racial slur towards her," the affidavit says. But Ith didn't want to dismiss the citations. He had learned, according to the affidavit, that Evans' mom was a "good friend" of Morris'. And that's when things got dicey.
Phone records show Evans' mom called Morris half an hour after her daughter's arrest. The following Monday, Morris allegedly called a PBSO district clerk and asked her to pull Evans' citations. Later, the clerk told investigators, Morris showed up at the clerk's office, took the citations, disappeared for a while, then came back and said he lost them. On photocopies of the citations, he wrote "VOID UNABLE TO LOCATE THE ORIGINALS."
Still, Ith wouldn't let the matter drop. Four months later, he resubmitted Evans' traffic citations, explaining that his originals never made it through the system. An investigator with the Palm Beach State Attorney's Office began looking into the mysterious case of disappearing traffic tickets. She eventually interviewed Morris, 41, who denied destroying the original tickets but admitted to voiding the photocopies. The originals were never found.
Yesterday, Morris was arrested and charged with official misconduct, a crime punishable by five years in prison. Phone calls to Morris' district office went unanswered this morning.