Martial Arts Teacher Sentenced in Sex Case; Lawsuit Filed Against Issaquah Schools

A weekly roundup of regional news

Emotions ran high on both sides of the courtroom Oct. 25 when former martial arts teacher Robert James Morrison, 44, was sentenced to 60 months in prison for sexual crimes against a minor.

Morrison was sentenced on three felony counts of rape of a child, one felony count of communication with a minor for immoral purposes and a gross misdemeanor count of communication with a minor for immoral purposes.

According to Renton Police Commander David Leibman, the incidents came to light when an acquaintance of the primary victim, identified only by her initials, notified Washington State Child Protective Services that Morrison was engaged in a sexual relationship with a student at his martial arts school, Lee’s Martial Arts studio in Renton.

According to the documents, the victim took martial arts at Morrison’s studio on and off for several years, but when she turned 14, the relationship changed as Morrison allegedly began sending to the victim Snapchats an texts of himself in his underwear, something she “thought was weird and not right.” The pictures then progressed from Morrison in his underwear to him wearing a towel and eventually himself nude. — Renton Reporter

• Tally Thomas, a former Federal Way High School student, filed a tort claim this month against the school district for $3.5 million, accusing basketball coach Jerome Collins of covering up voyeurism.

Now, Federal Way detectives are investigating a different former student involved in the voyeurism case, but not the coach.

In her lawsuit, Thomas, 19, claims that she was unknowingly videotaped performing oral sex on a basketball player during her sophomore year in high school, a video that eventually circulated among her classmates. In response to the incident, coach Collins convened a meeting with Thomas and the two basketball players involved where he allegedly discouraged her from reporting the situation due to the potential consequences for the players. The suit argues that Collins may have violated mandatory reporting laws, constituting a gross misdemeanor.

The case was eventually reported to the Federal Way Police Department in 2016, but the department was allegedly unable to find probable cause to pursue charges against Collins.

Given Thomas’ lawsuit, the law enforcement agency is reopening the criminal investigation. However, they are limiting their inquiry to the basketball player who allegedly filmed incident, and won’t be investigating Collins. Federal Way Police Department Commander Kurt Schwan said this is due to the two-year statute of limitations for prosecuting gross misdemeanors.

“We’re focusing on one student, but we haven’t ruled out the possibility of additional [former] students,” Schwan said of the reopened investigation. — Federal Way Mirror

• Kent business leaders really don’t like the city’s increasing reliance on the business and occupation tax — a fee on businesses’ gross income.

At a Oct. 16 Kent City Council meeting, representatives of the local business community testified against potential hikes in the business and occupation (B&O) tax rate, as seen in Mayor Dana Ralph’s proposed 2019-2020 city budget.

“It puts us in a position of looking at moving our distribution centers out of Kent,” Bryce White of Columbia Distributing (which delivers beer, soda and other beverages to retailers) said at the meeting.

He added that Columbia Distribution employs about 1,000 people at its two Kent sites, and that the company’s B&O taxes will triple by 2020 and be five times greater by 2028 if Mayor Ralph’s plan is approved.

Specifically, the mayor is calling for increasing the local B&O tax to generate an additional $3.4 million for the city’s general fund, only a year after the city council approved an increase in 2017 that is estimated to bring in $2.6 million in 2019 to help fund parks projects. The latest proposal includes four hikes over the next 10 years, and maintains a gross income threshold of $250,000 for the tax to be applicable to a given business. The city council has largely endorsed the mayor’s plan.

City leaders say the money is needed because Kent will lose about $5 million from the state annually starting in 2019.

However, some members of the local business community have different ideas for how the city can balance its budget. April Sta. Rosa, owner of Valley Floor Company and Kent Chamber of Commerce president-elect, submitted a list to the council of over 15 ideas for ways that the city can raise revenue and cut expenses, such as a $20 car tab fee.

“The city has had 10 years to adjust to known funding declines. …now it is sticking it to businesses,” Sta. Rosa said at the Oct. 16 meeting. “We were paying for streets, then parks and now the general fund. … Our lease is up in four years and our business will likely find a new city. …And it’s a fallacy that there are no other avenues to raise money. There is not council support for many options available.”

If the 2019-2020 budget is approved by a council committee on Nov. 6, it will head to a full council vote for approval on Nov. 20. — Kent Reporter

• In a lawsuit filed against the Issaquah School District, a former Skyline High School student student claims that she and her sister suffered bullying and harassment from other students, staff, and the school administration after she accused two of the school’s football players of rape in 2014.

The students, referred to as the survivor and the survivor’s sister in the suit, allege the Issaquah School District failed to follow state law by properlying investigating the allegations of bullying and harassment and maintaining and enforcing disciplinary policies and procedures.

According to the lawsuit, almost exactly four years after the rape, the students were harassed at school, at athletic events, at their private home and on social media due to the school losing its star football players over the 2014 rape allegation. The survivor claims the district neglected to intervene in any way.

In a press release, the school district denied the allegations of legal wrongdoing and broadly declined to comment: “we are unable to offer any further remarks on the lawsuit or the specific allegations contained in the lawsuit at this particular time,” the statement read.

An official court date has been scheduled for Oct. 21, 2019, in the King County Superior Court. — Issaquah Reporter