Michael J. Morgan, formerly of Poynette, was sentenced Tuesday to more than 15 years in prison after a 2016 armed standoff with police in which shots were fired from both sides.
“By the grace of God, no one was hurt on that cold December night,” said Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sgt. David Clark, who delivered a victim impact statement at the sentencing hearing Tuesday afternoon.
Michael J. Morgan, 43, was sentenced in Columbia County Circuit Court on felony charges of intentionally pointing a firearm at a law enforcement officer and first-degree recklessly endangering safety. Morgan pleaded no contest to both counts on Oct. 5, 2018. Multiple other charges were dismissed.
Judge Todd Hepler sentenced Morgan to 15 years and 6 months in prison with another eight years of extended supervision. Hepler granted Morgan 995 days of credit for time served.
Clark said in his statements Tuesday that he and deputy Jordan Hauter both feared being fatally shot Dec. 12, 2016, while responding to an emergency call at 304 N. Lincoln St. in Poynette.
Images of his own police funeral flashed through his mind while on scene, Clark said.
His wife still fears for his safety on the job, he said. Clark recalled Morgan pointed a high-powered hunting rifle at police and then his family before surrendering. Clark said he believed returning fire toward Morgan was justified.
Assistant District Attorney Jordan Lippert said had Morgan’s aim been slightly different, someone could have been killed. Lippert added Morgan placed multiple lives in danger — including his own — and victimized his family and police during the standoff.
The standoff occurred after Morgan’s late wife was diagnosed with cancer and a school sent a letter informing him he was not allowed to attend a concert event his daughter participated in.
Defense attorney Amanda Riek said being banned from the school was the breaking point after years of hardship for Morgan and his ongoing battle with depression, alcohol addiction and suicidal thoughts.
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Riek said no one could truly understand what was going through Morgan’s mind at the time of the standoff unless they personally struggled with depression themselves. She said “prison is not the answer” to address her client’s mental health needs.
Referring to a letter written by Morgan’s own mother, Riek said “the things he did that night were a cry for help.”
She said police did not follow proper protocol after the shooting and did not check on Morgan’s physical or mental well-being for several hours when he was on suicide watch.
Riek said Morgan’s brother, who called police Dec. 12, 2016, to report an incident, contacted authorities in hopes of helping his brother and seeing a peaceful resolution to a tense situation. Riek said Morgan’s brother feared he would commit suicide but did not believe he intended to hurt his family.
Riek added Morgan missed numerous life events in his own and his children’s lives, but he remained grateful that Hepler allowed him to attend his late wife’s funeral.
Kathleen Grey of Poynette delivered her own victim impact statement in court Tuesday. She said several extended family members have cared for Morgan’s children after his wife died, and the trauma Morgan’s children experienced during the standoff will affect them for the rest of their lives.
Morgan and one of his immediate family members also spoke in court Tuesday.
Victim witness coordinator Kelly Mullen on Tuesday read a victim impact statement from Morgan’s 18-year-old daughter, who said she wants to hug her father and tell him everything is going to be OK.
According to the statement Mullen read in court, Sarah Morgan wrote that she does not believe her father would ever intentionally harm her, and she hopes he receives mental health assistance and proper medication.