CHAFFEE COUNTY, Colo. — Barry Morphew who was accused of casting a ballot for his missing and presumed dead wife during the 2020 election pleaded guilty Thursday morning and avoided any jail time.
During an arraignment hearing that began at 9 a.m. Morphew pleaded guilty to one count of forgery of a government issued document.
Other counts of attempting to influence a public servant and elections (mail ballot offence) were dismissed as part of the plea deal.
Morphew was sentenced to one year but was granted a deferred sentence, meaning he won't serve any jail time unless he fails to comply with probation conditions. He must also complete 32 hours of community service.
"He knew that she wanted to vote and he thought that she might come back," said Iris Eytan, Morphew's attorney. "He didn’t know where she was. He was carrying out her wishes. What he did was he signed his name on the witness line, not concealing that it was him. He signed his signature on the witness line and he left the signature where she would normally sign blank. He did not make a mark there trying to deceive the clerk that by chance she had signed it. He did not sign or forge her name making it appear that she in fact signed it."
>The video above aired when the murder case against Morphew was dismissed without prejudice.
He could have faced up to six years in prison on the most serious count, which was a class four felony, 9NEWS legal analyst Whitney Traylor said earlier.
His wife Suzanne has not been seen since May 2020 and a year later Barry Morphew was arrested on murder charges. However just as his trial was about to begin, prosecutors dismissed the charges without prejudice, meaning charges could be filed again at a later date.
Prosecutors said if Suzanne's body is located, examination of it could provide evidence to potentially implicate or rule out Barry Morphew.
In October 2020, the Chaffee County Clerk reported to the sheriff's office that she had received a mail-in ballot for Suzanne Morphew, a person she knew was missing since May 2020, an arrest affidavit from the Chaffee County Sheriff's Office (CCSO) for Barry Morphew's arrest says.
After contacting the sheriff's office the clerk provided Suzanne's ballot to the agency, which seized it as evidence.
It did not have the signature of the voter as required and instead, the affidavit says, the name Barry Lee Morphew was handwritten on the witness line. Even when a witness signs, the voter needs to make a mark on the voter signature area.
"He didn’t really intend to deceive, but what he did was make a mistake. He made a bad choice," Eytan said. "He didn’t think that he was doing anything against the law. When he received the ballot, he had legal guardianship over Suzanne. That means that he could sign property paperwork, tax paperwork, all sorts of documentation on her behalf. That was what was permitted by the courts."
Normally what happens when there is no signature or a signature discrepancy, the clerk sends out a letter letting the voter know there is an issue with their signature and they have up to eight days after the election to "cure", or fix, the issue. In 2020, it was nine days because the eighth day was Veterans Day.
Suzanne Morphew was sent one of those letters.
"We still completed our statutory requirement by sending out this cure letter, and no one responded," said County Clerk Lori Mitchell at the time.
When no one responds, or responds by saying they never filled out a ballot, the clerk is supposed to turn over the sealed ballot envelopes to the district attorney to investigate. With Suzanne Morphew's ballot, the clerk called the sheriff.
"He sent a deputy over, and I made a chain of custody log, turned the ballot over, he bagged and tagged it, but it was sealed when it left my custody," said Mitchell.
Until a signature is verified, the envelope is never opened and the ballot is not counted.
Barry Morphew was later interviewed by FBI agents about the ballot and asked why he submitted it.
He replied, "Just because I wanted Trump to win," the affidavit says. He further stated, according to the affidavit that "I just thought give him [Trump] another vote."
He went on to say, according to the affidavit, "all these other guys are cheating," and I know she [referring to his wife] was going to vote for Trump anyway."
When asked if knew submitting the ballot was illegal, he responded, "I didn't know you couldn't do that for your spouse," the affidavit says.
SUGGESTED VIDEOS: The disappearance of Suzanne Morphew