Charges against parent dropped

June 4, 2012
by Everett Chinn

GREENVILLE — Four misdemeanor charges against Rita F. Morgan, the parent arrested Dec. 20 for an altercation with Greenville Public School District Police Officer LeShaun McWright, were dismissed in municipal court on Wednesday.

Morgan was charged with disturbing the peace, resisting arrest, failure to comply with a request and simple assault.

Morgan said she is glad the ordeal is over.

“I lost so many nights of sleep, and I was ashamed or scared at times to even go out in public since all of this happened,” said Morgan, wiping tears from her eyes.

“I am just happy this is over and told my daughter not to worry, to continue to stand up for herself because she did not do anything wrong.”

After more than two hours of testimony, Judge Eddie Lueckenbach ruled Morgan’s arrest unlawful.

Lueckenbach said the actions that followed the unlawful arrest were unwarranted.

“What we have here is a bad pool of blood, and that’s by both parties,” Lueckenbach said. “She admitted they went back and forth with each other from the time he told her to move. Things all went bad prior to when she returned her daughter to school, and she refused the handshake from Officer McWright. ... That’s when the bad blood started.”

Lueckenbach said Morgan may have done some things that contributed to the problem.

A video of the altercation between McWright and Morgan was shown in court, and McWright testified he instructed Morgan twice to leave the campus after she returned her daughter to school following a suspension.

McWright said he approached Morgan and pointed to the parking lot, where her car was parked, and told her to leave.

“I felt his presence, and he was all up on me,” Morgan testified. “I told him, ‘You see me leaving, why are you all up on me?’ I felt his presence, and I turned around and pushed him up off of me. The next then I knew, I was on the ground, and I was fighting for my life.”

Testimony showed that three days prior to the fight, Morgan’s daughter, Craigesha Jones, saw McWright get rough with another student, and spoke about it. When she was subsequently suspended, Jones refused to sign the suspension slip, and Morgan objected the disciplinary action.

Morgan tried to speak with administrators, but eventually spoke about the suspension on WXVT news station. She and her daughter complained about the treatment of students by the school resource officers, claiming the officers were abusing children.

The fight between Morgan and McWright occurred three days later, when Morgan returned Jones to school.

Morgan was leaving the campus when she saw a group of students who were not admitted in school, she testified.

“I stopped to see why they were not in school and I got a ink pen to write down their names and speak with someone in the superintendent’s office about it,” Morgan said. “That’s when McWright approached me again, and we had a conversation and words went back and forth. I had the pen in my hand, but my intentions was never to assault him.”

During the fight, McWright received several lacerations on his face and body, and pictures were shown in the hearing of the injuries to his right hand, face, head and torso.

McWright declined to comment on the case after the hearing.

Leeson Taylor II, district interim superintendent, said the district did not press charges on Morgan.

Morgan was represented by attorneys Kimberly Jones Merchant and Carol L. White-Richard.

“I am just happy the Mississippi Center for Justice was able to help Mrs. Morgan resolve this serious issue in a very positive manner,” Merchant said.

“Mrs. Morgan had a First Amendment right to voice her displeasure with the school district without worrying about repercussions from administration and resource officers.

“She challenged the system and was able to demonstrate to her daughter and other parents that you can and should stand up for your children.”

White-Richard said she is happy with the ruling.

“The video clearly shows she was trying to leave the campus,” White-Richard said.