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County pol defends vouching for employee charged in child sex case

Cook County Commissioner Sean M. Morrison, left, in 2017. File Photo by Tim Boyle/For the Sun-Times; Anthony M. Martin, right. Illinois Sex Offender Registry photo.

Cook County Commissioner Sean M. Morrison, left, in 2017. File Photo by Tim Boyle/For the Sun-Times; Anthony M. Martin, right. Illinois Sex Offender Registry photo.

The owner of a private security company wrote a letter to a Cook County judge in 2014 explaining why it was important that one of his top executives be allowed to continue traveling out of state for work despite being a defendant in a pending criminal case.

Less than three weeks later, that employee took a business trip to Colorado, where he was promptly arrested for using the Internet to try to solicit an underage girl for sex — the same type of illegal activity that got him in trouble in Illinois.

The business owner who wrote that letter is Sean Morrison, who in subsequent years has gone on to become a Cook County commissioner and chairman of the Cook County Republican Party.

Morrison is running for re-election in November, his first time facing voters since he was appointed to fill a vacancy as 17th District commissioner in July 2015.

In a statement to the Sun-Times, Morrison staunchly defended his handling of the case of Anthony Martin, who was a senior vice president of Morrison Security when he was arrested by Orland Park Police in August 2013 and charged with solicitation to meet a child.

The charge stemmed from suggestive text messages that Martin, then 46, sent to a 14-year-old girl he met at an office barbecue/pool party hosted by Morrison at his Palos Park home.

The girl attended the party with her mother, whose boyfriend also was an employee of Morrison Security.

According to Orland Park police records, Martin obtained the girl’s cell phone number at the party — and pinched her buttocks three times — after chatting with her about body piercings.

Later that night, he sent her text messages suggesting she sneak out of the house “for an evening or for an overnight” so that he could take her to get her belly button pierced. Martin called the girl a “sexy dork” and asked if she would like to “mess around with” him.

The girl showed the texts two weeks later to her mother, who complained to police. When questioned, Martin admitted sending the texts — using his company cell phone — and blamed it on being drunk.

Two friends of the victim told investigators that the girl told them her mother had warned her to be careful around Martin because he liked younger girls.

The 14-year-old later confirmed that account to police, but her mother told investigators that she did not recall making such a statement. In an interview with the Sun-Times, the mother said she had no knowledge of Martin being interested in young girls before his arrests.

The 6-4, 230-pound Martin worked as a bounty hunter and volunteer auxiliary police officer just prior to joining Morrison’s company in 2003 as his operations director.

Morrison Security provides a wide range of security services from offices in Chicago, Las Vegas and Florida.

Morrison said there was “no history or hint of inappropriate behavior” involving Martin before the incident.

He said that when he learned about Martin’s texting, “I immediately encouraged his arrest and prosecution.”

But he said he did not fire Martin immediately “because my attorneys believed Martin could have the basis for a wrongful termination lawsuit and I did not want him to profit from his criminal activity by hiding behind labor laws.”

Cook County Commissioner Sean M. Morrison at a finance committee meeting last year. File Photo. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Cook County Commissioner Sean M. Morrison at a finance committee meeting last year. File Photo. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Instead, Morrison kept Martin in his senior vice president role, managing more than 450 employees, while the case dragged through the court system.

By October 2014, Martin was expecting to receive probation through a court-supervised alcohol abuse treatment program that would have allowed him to avoid a criminal conviction on his record — and keep his job.

As part of that effort, Martin’s lawyer submitted a letter signed by Morrison to Circuit Judge John J. Hynes seeking permission for Martin to continue to travel on business.

In the letter, Morrison noted that the 10-year veteran employee is “instrumental in running my business.”

“Due to his position with my firm, the trust I have in him and his long tenure with me, one of his core functions is to be the Traveling Executive for the company, to monitor my business. To continue to be able to function in this company, he must be able to travel,” Morrison wrote.

In his statement to the Sun-Times, Morrison said it was Martin’s lawyer who drafted the letter, but Morrison didn’t deny authorizing or signing it.

Just 19 days after the date of Morrison’s letter, Martin was arrested again, this time in Colorado, on charges of trying to sexually exploit a child using the Internet.

In the Colorado case, Martin was caught in a sting operated by the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office, which used an investigator posing online as a 14-year-old girl.

Martin used a social networking site to make contact with the Colorado “girl,” then engaged her in sexually explicit banter via text messaging. He made arrangements to visit the girl’s home, said he’d like to see her having sex with other girls her age “or younger” and told her: “I like younger women. I’d marry one.”

Colorado police traced Martin’s phone number and arrested him after figuring out he was already in trouble in Illinois for similar conduct.

Morrison said he “personally assisted police officers in apprehending” Martin. According to Colorado police records, Morrison’s assistance consisted of telling them where they could find Martin at work.

After the Colorado arrest, Morrison did fire Martin.

Martin pleaded guilty in Colorado and was given a six-year suspended sentence, then transferred back to Illinois, where he pleaded guilty again in the Orland Park case and was sentenced to three years in prison.

At the time of his arrests, Martin resided in southwest suburban Worth, where he served on the park district board.

The Illinois Sex Offender Registry currently lists him as a resident of the state of Washington. He could not be reached for comment.

“While I fully support punishing people within the limits of the law as an elected official, I have no hesitation in stating that the convicted man should consider himself fortunate that his fate consists of just unemployment and incarceration,” Morrison said.

In a series of 2009 promotional videos still found on YouTube, Morrison, Martin and other Morrison Security executives lauded the company for its superior hiring practices.

“The majority of security firms out there do not thoroughly screen and vet their personnel,” Morrison stated.

Statement of Sean Morrison regarding Anthony Martin

June 8, 2018

“Morrison Security has over 800 employees and subcontractor employees combined.  Anthony Martin was a veteran and former military police officer with no history or hint of inappropriate behavior toward his fellow employees, customers or private citizens of any age or gender.  When I learned he sent a very inappropriate text message to the teenage daughter of another employee, I immediately encouraged his arrest and prosecution.  The only reason I did not fire him immediately was because my attorneys believed Martin could have the basis for a wrongful termination lawsuit, and I did not want him to profit from his criminal activity by hiding behind labor laws.  He continued his assigned work, and his attorney drafted a letter required by the court to allow him to travel for employment reasons while his criminal case proceeded.  I immediately fired him when he was accused of a similar texting offense while on duty in Colorado and I personally assisted police officers in apprehending Anthony Martin.  While I fully support punishing people within the limits of the law as an elected official, I have no hesitation in stating that the convicted man should consider himself fortunate that his fate consists of just unemployment and incarceration.  It is my understanding that he wisely decided to move away from Illinois after he was released.”