A former Utah Department of Corrections officer will fly to Virginia Tuesday to be charged with a 24-count military indictment that could land him in a military prison for 100 years.
Nick Morgan, former deputy director of the Utah Department of Corrections and a retired colonel in the Air Force Reserve, has been recalled to active duty to face allegations that he double-billed the Air Force, forged signatures on financial documents, disobeyed a direct order and for "conduct unbecoming an officer."Morgan, a fixture in Utah law enforcement circles for more than three decades, will travel to Langley Air Force Base, Va., to be formally served with the charges, said Capt. Veronica Kemeny of the 1st Fighter Wing public affairs office.
Kemeny said 24 counts have been drawn up. If convicted of all of them in a court-martial, Morgan could be sentenced to 100 years in prison, although she said it is unlikely that prosecutors would seek the maximum sentence.
She declined to provide specific details of the alleged crimes.
Kemeny said the Air Force probe was prompted by state officials investigating related allegations that got Morgan fired from the Corrections Department in September 1996. No state criminal charges were ever filed and Morgan has sued the department, its former director and Gov. Mike Leavitt's former chief of staff for wrongful firing.
"The state of Utah asked for our help into what appeared to be double-billing hours, where he billed both the state and the Air Force," Kemeny said.
Morgan, who now manages Salt Lake County's fleet, insisted he has done nothing wrong.
"I'm not going to say this is a witch hunt," an emotional Morgan said Monday. "But you look at the facts and draw your own conclusions."
"I will say that I'm not going to dodge this," he said.
Morgan, while in the Air Force Reserve, last served as mobilization coordinator to the director of security police at Air Combat Command Headquarters at Langley. His responsibilities included assisting in oversight of security programs for both the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard.
Morgan retired two years ago with the rank of colonel.
Kemeny said the charges will be reviewed by the fighter wing commander. If he determines to pursue the prosecution, an Article 32 hearing - similar to a preliminary hearing in civilian court - will be conducted at which Morgan and his attorney will be able to confront witnesses.
If the hearing's presiding officer determines there is sufficient evidence, the matter will be referred to the commander of the 9th Air Force, who will decide whether Morgan should face court-martial.
Morgan was the No. 2 man in corrections for 10 years when former director O. Lane McCotter fired him after questioning the purchase of a pair of surveillance vans. Corrections officials also claimed Morgan had an improper relationship with a female department investigator and double-billed the state while on military leave.
Corrections and state public safety investigators conducted three separate investigations into the allegations. No charges were ever filed and Morgan sued in federal court, claiming he was victimized by malicious and unfounded intrusions into his private life orchestrated by McCotter. The lawsuit is pending.
Before serving with Corrections, Morgan worked for more than 20 years in the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office, where he was the first ever to achieve the now-defunct rank of major - the No. 3 position in the department. He unsuccessfully ran for sheriff in 1978.
After he was fired from corrections, Morgan was hired by Salt Lake County as director of its fleet.