Days after being arrested during an undercover child exploitation sting coordinated by federal, state and local authorities, a youth umpire from Dacula has been barred from officiating games.
James Morriss Jr., 49, umpired for the Duluth Youth Baseball and Softball Association, the Georgia High School Association and the Mill Creek Athletic Association as part of a contract between the entities and the Multi-County Softball Umpires Association and the Duluth Softball Umpires Association.
He had served as an independent contractor for more than 10 years, officials told Daily Post news partner FOX 5 Atlanta.
The umpire is now prohibited from officiating games, however, due to his arrest last week as part of Operation End Game, a child exploitation sting organized by the FBI, the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia.
Morriss Jr. and the eight other men who were arrested during the operation are accused of traveling from across the state to meet children — who were actually undercover agents — for sex, the GBI said.
Mill Creek Athletic Association President Gregg Morris, who is not related to Morriss Jr., said the Mill Creek association took action as soon as they heard of the arrest.
“We immediately called (the Duluth Softball Umpires Association) and said, ‘He is no longer welcome at our park,’” Morris said. “You hate to be so matter-of-fact and do that when someone is arrested because it doesn’t mean he’s been found guilty, but when it comes to kids, safety is the No. 1 thing.
“If you’ve been arrested for (alleged child solicitation) and the FBI is involved, you’re absolutely not welcome in our park anymore. We have no gray area for this kind of matter; it’s very black and white.”
An official with the Multi-County Softball Umpires Association told FOX 5 that Morriss Jr. will not be allowed to officiate again unless he is cleared of his charges, which an official with the Duluth Softball Umpires Association echoed to other news outlets.
Morris told the Daily Post he was pleased those associations took the steps they did in barring Morriss Jr., though added he was shocked by the arrest.
“He was my daughter’s favorite umpire,” Morris said. “I’ve got two daughters and he’s worked with them for over 10 years and he was just the guy next door. We do background checks on all of our coaches, all of our assistant coaches and all of our team moms for all of our sports, and it’s a pretty rigid background check, so we feel like we do everything in our power to protect the kids, but these things shock me every time.”
According to both the Duluth Softball Umpires Association and the Multi-County Softball Umpires Association, officials are registered with USA Softball, which requires employees, contractors and volunteers to undergo screening.
The screening “may consist of a staff and volunteer application form, an interview, consent to reference and fingerprint for a background check report, and/or approval by staff and/or committee members,” USA Softball of Georgia’s website says.
If a person being screened has been convicted of murder, rape, sexual assault, false imprisonment, burglary, armed robbery, indecent solicitation of a child, aggravated sexual abuse/assault of a child, child abuse, child molestation, sexual conduct with a minor, sexual abuse of a child or online solicitation of a minor, “USA Softball, its National Background Check Committee, and/or its state/metro associations shall undertake a review of such individual’s application to determine whether such person should be permitted to participate in USA Softball programs,” the website says.
Morriss Jr. was charged with online solicitation of a child and was booked into the Athens-Clarke County Jail following his arrest. On Saturday, he posted $5,700 bond and was released.