GALLIPOLIS — A former South Gallia teacher was sentenced to one year in a state facility after pleading guilty to sexual battery, Monday, in the Gallia Court of Common Pleas for incidents involving a former student of his in December 2017 and January this year.
“Teachers have one of the most sacred duties in our society,” said Gallia Prosecutor Jason Holdren. “They are to shape and mold our youth and as parents we trust our teachers are doing the right thing. When any teacher violates that duty in this manner, there’s really no words to describe how bad that is. It’s in my book unacceptable, reprehensible and obviously criminal. I don’t know how we can say he truly cared for her. If teachers care for students, they go the extra mile to make sure these kids have educations and make sure they understand in getting ready for (life), not to advance their own agenda and take advantage of their students.”
Morgan Halley, 33, of Gallipolis, was originally indicted on six charges, the first three being sexual battery, all third-degree felonies, and counts four through six, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. According to Gallia County Local Schools Superintendent Jude Meyers, Halley had served as a high school English teacher of all high school ages. South Gallia is a combined high school and middle school.
“In this case he pleaded guilty to and was convicted of counts one through three,” said Holdren. “We dismissed four, five and six. If he had been convicted of all six they would have merged anyway (resulting in a similar penalty).”
Halley was sentenced to one year in prison on count one, five years of community control on counts two and three after prison release and he’ll have to register as a tier III sex offender for the rest of his life. Every 90 days, he will have to report in person to the local sheriff’s office, wherever he lives. If he moves, the sheriff will notify area residents of his presence. Should Halley violate the terms of his community control, he would face another eight years of time in a state facility.
The events in question happened at Halley’s home in Gallipolis, said Holdren, reportedly on the dates of December 1 and 26, 2017, along with a third, January 6, 2018. An anonymous email was sent to the principal of South Gallia discussing suspicious behavior and from there the Gallia Sheriff’s Office was notified. Holdren said among suggestive electronic communications gathered from cell phones, Halley’s DNA was recovered from his home along with that of the victim. Communications were recorded in the form of screenshots of Snapchat messages, utilizing methods which would allow one to take a screenshot of the message without alerting the receiver to the screenshot. Typically, a receiver would be alerted to such. After being taken into custody and paying bail, investigations found Halley still attempting to contact the victim by arranging Spotify playlists, which would then be shared. Song titles were reportedly arranged in messages, according to Holdren. A young witness also testified that Halley had asked her to pass on information to the victim after his initial arrest and hearings.
“All sex abuse cases are tough,” said Holdren. “When we’re dealing with victims, we talk to and get input from the parents and guardians of the victim and in these cases you have to weigh revictimizing the victim through testimony and cross-examination. It was key in this case to gather as much evidence and do as much work as we could to put together a solid case…It led to us getting those convictions and holding (Halley) accountable, getting justice for the victim, all the while protecting the public by him registering as a sex offender and never being able to teach again.”
Holdren commended the Gallia Sheriff’s Office and Detective Chris Gruber for his lead in the case’s investigation.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.