Update May 16, 2024

Thursday Judge Robert Edwards of Searcy sentenced Morris to 35 years in prison and fined $330,000 plus must pay restitution in amount of $667,000.  Edwards handed down a sentence much harsher than the jury recommended.  Jury advised to make each of the 7 counts a 5 year sentence to run concurrently, but Edwards made the sentence to run consecutively which came to the 35 years.

 

Original Story

After deliberating for just over four hours Wednesday, a Jefferson County Circuit Court jury convicted a Texas man of receiving money from the Pine Bluff Urban Renewal Agency for asbestos work that was not done.

Roderick Morris, 44, was found guilty of 79 of 81 counts of forgery and 38 counts of theft of property between 2019 and 2023.

Former Urban Renewal Agency Director Maurice Taggart, who was a high school classmate of Morris was also charged following an investigation by the Arkansas State Police. Taggart resigned as director of URA in 2021 and was killed on Aug. 30, 2023 at the age of 43.

Morris did not testify in his own defense and prosecutors allege he received $667384 in payments.

The sentencing phase of the trial began Thursday morning.