Minister given 15 month conditional sentence for assaults

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The former rector of Christ Church Anglican Church in St. Stephen was given a 15 month conditional sentence on two charges of assault with a weapon, at Provincial Court in Saint John Tuesday.

Rev. William James Morton, 59, was last before the court Aug. 23, when he pled guilty to charges of assaulting a female parishioner with a box cutter in St. Stephen, Nov. 24 2015, and assaulting her a second time Dec. 8 2015 with a knife, also in St. Stephen.

The case was set over until Tuesday for a pre-sentence report, and victim impact statement. Judge Henrik Tonning said he also had a report from the Southdown Rehabilitation Centre in Ontario, which Morton attended.

In December 2015, the RCMP received a 911 call from the complainant who said, “My boyfriend was just here. He had a knife. He wanted to kill me. He’s gone home now to commit suicide with the knife. He was telling me to hit the knife so it would go in me.”

Officers attended both homes, and detained Morton under the provisions of the Mental Health Act, as he was deemed suicidal.

Morton was placed under arrest for assault with a weapon, and uttering threats and he said, “I guess my life is over.” Subsequently he was examined at both the Saint John Correctional Centre and the Restigouche Hospital.

The complainant told RCMP that Morton was a married pastor, and she had been having an affair with him for three years, but didn’t want it to get out.

She said Morton had taken a knife and laid it across her chest, her body and her throat and threatened to kill her then himself.

She recounted how she went over to Morton’s residence Nov. 24, when he took a box cutter out of a kitchen drawer and began running it repeatedly over her left breast for about 10 minutes, leaving small scratch marks.

She allowed it because she didn’t think he would hurt her but later in the day, Morton went to her house where she was lying on the bed and took the box cutter out of his pocket.

When she questioned him, he replied, “I’m going to do you and then I’m going to kill myself,” then he started to cut her starting on her right breast and then down her belly.

McAvity said she remembered thinking he was going to cut her breast off and that it hurt. She said Morton stuffed her sweater sleeve in her mouth and told her to keep quiet. She remembered telling him specifically “I don’t want to die” and he stopped.

On Dec. 8 she received a text message from Morton saying “I’ll do you first then me” which she took to be a sexual.  McAvity said Morton arrived at her home and made sexual advances. He then pulled out a folding knife. When questioned about the knife he replied “We’ll do it tonight. I’ll do you first then myself.”

McAvity said Morton took the knife and starting running it across the complainants body, but not cutting her then put it under her right breast and said, “Go ahead. Give it a smack.”

She refused, and attempted to take the knife. He threw her out of the way and asked her if she wanted it in the carotid or the jugular, then ran the knife across her neck but stopped.

Asked by the officer what she thought Morton intended to do, the woman said he was going to kill her then kill himself.

McAvity said the woman was taken to hospital where she was examined by a doctor and she has a number of marks on her body. The cuts with the knife were not deep enough to suture but they clearly left scarring marks and are clearly evident on the front of her torso.

In her victim impact statement, the complaintant said she now has a six inch scar over her right breast that traverses her chest, and a three inch scar down the centre of her abdomen.

She said she has been diagnosed with PTSD, and is unable to work. “The person standing before you today used to be a strong independent person. I don’t know if I’ll ever get that strength and independence back.

“I entered a relationship with Mr. Morton after him telling me numerous times he loved me. Bill was the love of my life. I still love him but our relationship was built on false promises.

“I felt safe with Bill because of his position. He has left me feeling worthless and unlovable.”

When the first offence happened, she said she didn’t care because she was depressed about not being able to find employment and was going to have to move to Fredericton to live with her daughter.

“It was like a dream that happened. The only time I knew it was true was every time I got dressed and saw the cuts. When it happened again two weeks later, I was terrified.

“I called the police because I believed something bad was going to happen to Bill. All I wondered about was Bill mad at me and was he okay. I still wonder this today. I wish I did not call the police and I think, maybe, we’d still be together.”

She concluded, “I do not know the person I have become after all this. I wish Bill had killed me. I’ve been hospitalized twice this year because of my depression and I’m still under the care of a psychiatrist and psychologist.”

McAvity said these were extremely serious offences, which arose out of a bizarre situation, and clearly required a term of incarceration of some considerable duration.

He said that the court must consider the protection of the complainant, and any sentence should include that Morton have no contact with her directly or indirectly.

“I am well aware that is not her wish. However, the Crown takes the position that it is in her best interest, whether she believes it that way or not and, quite frankly, in the public interest, that he not have any contact with her or she with him.”

Tonning commented that these activities and actions related solely to the relationship between Morton and the complainant, and there was nothing to suggest there were any other issues.

Defence lawyer Reed Cheodore said this seemed to be a perfect storm with two people that had issues of their own and they collided at the wrong time in their lives.

Cheodore said Southdown has described Morton as schizophrenic who was isolated from friends and family, which caused varying degrees of depression but, with help, he has been able to overcome that.

He also said Morton accepts the blame, and said this should never have happened.

Tonning said there was a breach of trust in terms of Morton’s position, and it was clear when he was remanded to Restigouche Hospital he was exhibiting depressive signs with thoughts of suicide.

“Given his position in the community and his occupation within the church community, I have no doubt he was a conflicted individual.”

Tonning said Morton, who has no previous record, did not present a danger to the community, and he was satisfied nothing like this will happen again as he is receiving the treatment he needs.

Tonning imposed 15 month conditional sentences on both offences to be served concurrently. Morton was also ordered to pay a victim fine surcharge of $100 on each offence.

Among the conditions imposed were that Morton abstains from the consumption of alcohol, continues counselling, attends another rehabilitation program at Southdown, for the first five months must abide by house arrest in a residence in Fredericton belonging to the Anglican diocese and he is to have no contact with the complainant.