In a strange case of delayed prosecution, the director of a residential drug and alcohol program in Payson has been charged with assaulting a former member, although the minister denies the claims.
James M. Morrissey maintains Pastor Harold Fleeger yelled and poked him during an altercation in January 2010 while he was still living in a U-Turn For Christ halfway home.
Morrissey waited nine months to report the incident to police. It took officers another three months to question Fleeger and another two months for the town prosecutor to file charges.
In early March, attorney Co Horgan filed four counts of assault and disorderly conduct charges against Fleeger.
Fleeger pleaded not guilty to the charges March 29 and says he has never caused physical harm to any member of the treatment program.
A pre-trial conference is scheduled for April 27 in Payson.
“My only intent is to see them get their lives back together and become productive citizens,” said Fleeger, who also works as a teacher at a local school. “It is never my intent to cause harm on anyone.”
Morrissey says that at 8 a.m. on Jan. 7, 2010, Fleeger barged into an apartment Morrissey shared with two other men in the program and started yelling at Morrissey for not being “out on the street” looking for a job.
Morrissey said he did not understand why Fleeger was yelling because he had previously arranged to work out of the apartment on his own business.
Fleeger allegedly grew more upset and got in Morrissey’s face, poking him in the chest, causing Morrissey to trip and fall over a box, according to the police report.
Morrissey said he was not injured, but felt threatened by Fleeger. Morrissey’s two housemates witnessed the incident and reported what they saw to officer Bryan Watson. When Watson questioned Fleeger nearly a year later, he said he could not recall the altercation.
“I asked him (Fleeger) if he may have poked James in the chest while he was disciplining him. He informed me that he may or may not have, but it is possible as he is the director of the program and he does discipline the clients of the program,” Watson said.
Fleeger further told Watson he had disciplined Morrissey for multiple infractions of the program’s rules during his time in the program, but he had never been physically aggressive.
Morrissey joined U-Turn for Christ in November 2009 after his third DUI arrest. Shortly before joining U-Turn, Morrissey missed a court hearing and a judge issued a warrant for his arrest.
“I knew I had a problem, so I stopped drinking and decided to go to a Christian rehab center,” he said.
Morrissey said he wanted to get help from U-Turn, but “this is not what I got.”
Throughout his time at the center, Morrissey alleges the staff treated him unfairly and forced him to dig holes for punishment.
Shortly after the altercation with Fleeger, Morrissey bought a bottle of alcohol and drank it in his apartment.
“They derailed my ability to stay sober,” he said.
The next morning, Fleeger came to the apartment and discovered Morrissey was drunk, a violation of the center’s rules and policies. Fleeger called the police and they arrested Morrissey on the warrant.
Morrissey served eight months in jail for the DUI.