Former WVU student sentenced for raping woman in Potomac home

Former WVU student sentenced for raping woman in Potomac home (ABC7)

ROCKVILLE, Md. (ABC7) – A former West Virginia University student and Rockville native will spend up to the next five years in prison for raping a woman in an upscale Potomac home.

On May 17, 2015, Richard ‘Ricky’ Morse, 22, and a group of his friends drank to oblivion at the former Tommy Joe's Restaurant and Bar along the 4700 block of Montgomery Lane in downtown Bethesda.

Around 3 a.m. that night, the group crashed at one friend's Potomac home. Shortly thereafter, the female victim fell ill, vomiting in a bathroom because she had drunk six vodka cranberries and two 12 ounce beers earlier at the bar. Friends escorted the young woman to a guest bedroom in the home where she fell asleep fully clothed.

Around 5 a.m., the girl awoke, half-naked, to Morse holding her down by her biceps, raping her. The girl tried to resist, but was still severely incapacitated from the amount of alcohol she’d consumed only hours earlier.

“It’s fine,” Morse repeatedly told the girl, who he had known for a few years. The girl fought back and freed herself from Morse’s grip, but then fell back asleep – her back turned to Morse.

Instead of leaving, Morse raped the young woman a second time. The woman, more coherent now, managed to lock herself in a nearby bathroom. When she exited, minutes later, Morse was passed out in the bed. The woman, who had never been previously intimate with Morse, woke her friends and they left the home.

At sentencing Thursday, Morse apologized to the victim, but proceeded to claim he had no memory of the violent assault he committed.

"The fact that you want to get yourself hammered and then go take advantage of another human being, there's no excuse and there's no safe harbor under the law for that,” Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy stated.

Prosecutors dropped a figurative bombshell in court, quoting a jailhouse phone call where Morse recently joked about pretending to be a recovering alcoholic in attempt to buy sympathy from the judge.

Morse: “While you're drinking wine, I’ll be in AA meetings, talking about how I have an alcohol addiction… ‘Hi my name's Richard Morse and I’m addicted to alcohol.’”

Girlfriend: “Like dude, you don't even drink, like this is crazy…”

Morse: “That's not the point…”

Girlfriend: “I know it's not the point…”

Morse: “It's just going to look good to the judge.”

Seasoned defense attorney Barry Helfand was taken aback by his client’s recorded words.

"It certainly didn't help,” Helfand told ABC7 News. "Did I like the answers? The answers were terrible for my client when I heard them, but he was talking privately with his girlfriend.”

Morse did elect to speak in court, acknowledging that the victim’s parents had welcomed him into their home on a number of occasions prior to raping their daughter.

“I want to express how sorry I am,” Morse stated with a shaky voice and solemn look on his face. “From this point, I promise to do nothing, but good.”

Morse also apologized to his parents for bringing shame to the family name. He thanked his girlfriend, recorded in the incriminating jailhouse phone calls, for her weekly visits and unwavering love and support. The 22-year-old also vowed to speak to high school and college students, sharing his tragic tale about the perils of binge drinking and drug abuse.

“I had no idea what I was doing that night because of how much I drank,” Morse added. “It made me go against everything I stand for.”

Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge David Boynton began his pre-sentencing narrative drawing attention to the complexity of blending a good person with a terrible action.

“I believe this was an act that was out-of-character for Mr. Morse,” Judge Boynton stated from the stand. “It doesn’t change who you are, but it is certainly something that you did.”

Judge Boynton recognized the large amount of people in court that came to show solidarity with Morse, the fact that he had no criminal record, and that he was about to graduate from West Virginia University at the time of charges being filed. The judge, however, could not ignore, what he called, “an incredibly serious violation.”

“Regardless of what happened in this case, the victim was not at fault,” Judge Boynton added. “The fact that she ended up how she did is really inexcusable.”

Judge Boynton sentenced Morse to five years in the Maryland Department of Corrections. He will, however, be eligible for parole after serving half of his sentence, although it’s no guarantee the parole board would grant a reduced sentence.

Judge Boynton also ordered Morse submit to drug and alcohol treatment, routine drug and alcohol testing, and register with the sex offender registry for the rest of his life.

“Unless I can find some legal way to get out from under this conviction, he is a doomed young man… If he has to register, he’s not going to able to get a job in the future,” Helfand added.

Upon his release, Morse will be on probation for five years. If he fails to meet any of his court-ordered conditions - or is convicted of another crime - he could be sent back to prison for up to 15 years.

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