On Aug. 16, 2017, Anderson County resident F. Lee Morris, one of Sheriff Greg Taylor’s most outspoken critics, came home to find an Anderson County Sheriff’s Office deputy, identified as Colman, on his property.
Morris, who has a longstanding suit against Anderson County and Taylor, has made several allegations against Taylor and his department. In this case, Morris captured the entire event on cell phone video, which was later posted on the Herald-Press website.
On the recording, Morris asks the deputy why he’s on his property. “I just drove through an open gate,” the deputy says. Morris’ friend, Earl Cotton, who was with Morris that day, said the front gate was locked when they left. The chain, he said, was cut when they returned.
With narrow exceptions, an officer must have probable cause and a warrant, signed by a magistrate, to enter private property. In the video, no warrant was shown or referenced.
After the article, Sheriff Taylor called the newspaper, calling Morris one of the county’s “nut-cases.” He declined, however, to publicly comment on the matter.
It is interesting that a video exists of the incident. The video can be viewed by following this link: Warning the Palestine Herald may charge you .89 cents to view it. They have begun to charge to view the paper online.
To this day Taylor has yet to comment on the actions – and possible civil rights violations – of his officers.
Sadly, Morris never got his day in court: his longstanding case against the Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Greg Taylor was dismissed by the U.S. District Court on Jan. 31 2017. Morris, owner and operator of a tow-truck company, alleged Taylor illegally removed his company from the county’s tow-truck rotation, due to a personal grudge. His case, filed in July 2016, also claimed Taylor violated his and his African-American wife’s civil rights by making disparaging, racist remarks about her.
It was not the first time that Sheriff Greg Taylor has victimized him said Morris. Several years ago, he stated that the Sheriff’s Department removed heavy equipment from his residence located a few miles from Palestine. Morris said deputies took a tractor on a trailer as well other numerous other motorized heavy equipment and told him they were investigating if it had been stolen. Morris advised us that at the time he had recently bought it paying several thousand dollars cash and felt it was worth twice what he paid. Morris said he waited several months before contacting the Sheriff Department again inquiring about the tractor and was told, “what tractor?”
Morris said they never gave him any paperwork. He later learned they had to have a warrant to enter his
property and remove the tractor to begin with. He remembers the time frame from when a former
deputy was running against the Sheriff Greg Taylor was subsequently arrested for a misdemeanor
Records do indicate a candidate running against Taylor in 2008 was arrested for a Class A Assault.
Further claims of Sheriff Taylor retaliation was a former Newspaper Editor in Palestine Thomas
Martinez, who refused Sheriff Taylors demands and threats to recant a story. He was charged with
interfering with an emergency request for assistance in connection with an argument with his wife at
the couple’s home not long after he wrote an editorial about Sheriff Taylor demanding concessions
from the newspaper.
Taylor’s dispute with the Herald-Press prompted him to cut communications with the newspaper. That generated complaints from readers, who wanted information about where crimes were occurring in the county.
This was not the first incident between Taylor and the Palestine Newspaper. Nor with other Anderson County residents.
Morris told investigating journalist who traveled to Palestine in April 2018 that his real trouble with the
Sheriff began when his daughter was found to be residing at rental property he owned. Morris stated
another woman had rented from him and suddenly left, moving to Athens Texas. He then learned that
another female had been living with her and since the rent was paid he had no objection to her staying.
Then one night he had to move a vehicle that was kept on the same property. Morris said when he
arrived another wrecker driver was already there and parked with the headlights of his truck pointed on
a flatbed wrecker that was also parked on the property. He stated the renter and another girl were
dancing on the flatbed in they’re undergarments. Morris advised us it was then he realized he needed
to find out more about his renter. A short time later when he was free he went by the property and
took the girl to eat in his car passing Sheriff Greg Taylors home who he said happened to be in his yard
when the sheriff waved at his vehicle and the female passenger wave back. Morris said it was then the
female renter revealed herself to be Greg Taylors daughter. Morris said she confessed to him she was
having some personal problems and admitted to using illegal drugs
“I told her right then that she was going to have to go.” Lee Morris
Morris claims that shortly after this incident his trouble with Greg Taylor began. It was not long after the Sheriff removed him from the rotation that Morris went to see him in his office. Morris said he wanted to try reasoning and have a professional discussion with Sheriff Taylor. I wanted to explain my version of events Morris told us and I was interrupted and told,
“I am God in Anderson County.” And then told Morris, “You are a dirty nigger lover.”
In the very least, Sheriff Taylor disregards keeping separate personal grudges from professional obligations.
Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor could have faced federal civil rights charges, after one of his deputies, without permission, entered F. Lee Morris’ property. But he did not. Why?
Taylor has refused to explain what happened, while refusing to answer questions from any journalist.
The allegations are serious. Any sheriff who doesn’t enforce the law in a fair, just, and even-handed manner, or uses his office to retaliate against critics as well enforcing his own personal will is basically a Tyrant.
Whether the gate was locked is irrelevant. With narrow exceptions, an officer must have “probable cause” and a warrant, signed by a magistrate, to enter private property, unless the officer sees a felony taking place.
Morris said that while the Civil Rights case was active he also tried getting on the rotation in Leon
County where he has family members. He told us he had a cousin who had spoken to Sheriff Kevin Ellis
there on his behalf. The cousin then told him what he needed to do and gave him the Sheriff Ellis cell
number. Morris then moved a travel trailer to some property he obtained there and set up.
It was not very long after that he got a call from Sheriff Ellis on his cell phone. The Sheriff told him he
was not going to be on Leon County rotation and that he had gotten word that Morris was a shady
character. Morris asked for an explanation to exactly what Sheriff Ellis meant and was told he had been
advised Morris was a criminal element and he was not going to allow his kind to operate in Leon County.
Morris said he could never quite get him to be any more specific.
The conversation was recorded.