A man charged with attacking Hart County Sheriff Mike Cleveland with a machete last year was convicted of the assault in a three-day trial Thursday and sentenced to 20 years in prison without parole.
Cleveland, who was not injured in the attack, shot Joseph Ray Morrison in the legs as the man rushed him, authorities said.
The Hart County Superior Court jury deliberated only 13 minutes before convicting Morrison, 51, of attempted murder, three counts of aggravated assault on a police officer, two counts of terroristic threats, arson and hindering a 911 call.
“He has at least four felony convictions,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Geoffrey Fogus said Friday. “That was significant because he pled under our recidivist stature,” which required the judge to impose a maximum sentence and any prison term would be without the possibility of parole, Fogus said.
Chief Judge Thomas Hodges sentenced Morrison to 30 years with the first 20 in prison without parole and the remainder on probation.
Morrison, who was born in North Carolina, had lived in Colorado and moved to Hart County from the Atlanta area, according to Fogus. Morrison’s felony convictions include damage to property in South Carolina, a drug conviction in Georgia and a federal gun violation conviction in Colorado.
The Hart County crimes occurred in January 2016 when deputies responded to Morrison’s home near Lake Hartwell after he had threatened the lives of his girlfriend and her son, authorities said.
Northern District Attorney Parks White said when deputies arrived, Morrison warned them he had a rifle and threatened to kill them. During the standoff, Morrison set fire to the house, then rushed out in the direction of Cleveland, according to White.
Cleveland told the Banner-Herald at the time that “I called for him to stop and he wouldn’t. I shot and one of my deputies shot. We shot about four times each. He went down and he was right at my feet still swinging the machete.”
The bullet wounds were non-life threatening and Morrison was jailed without bond after he was released from a hospital, White said.