Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Defendant caused harm, in spite of jury verdict

On July 4, 2022, six young women aged 22-24 experienced a taxi ride that terrified and traumatized them. During their late night ride from Burlington to Salisbury, their driver, Marvin Morley of Middlebury Taxi, turned off Route 7, drove them to his home, and invited them inside to see his button-making business and supposed Airbnb. The young women, all recently arrived in the area for summer employment, found themselves in an unfamiliar rural area, in the dark, off the main road, looking at a building with a padlock on it and being invited to come inside. They did not want to be there, did not know Mr. Morley’s intentions, and they were scared. From that point until they were finally dropped off at their requested location, they wondered if they were going to survive the night. They were traumatized by the experience, affecting their sleep, their work, and their sense of security.

Fast forward to the week of April 15, 2024, almost two years later. Pursuant to this taxi ride, Mr. Morley was tried for unlawful restraint, a felony, which the police and state’s attorney felt was warranted. Four of the six women returned to Vermont — from the UK — to testify about their experience. This was no vacation. It was very difficult thing to do, but they came because they didn’t want this to happen to anyone else. Their testimony was heart-wrenching; they were still tearful when talking about that night.

Following two days of testimony from both sides, including Mr. Morley’s testimony as to his intentions and that he didn’t intend to restrain or scare anyone, the 12-person jury of nine men and three women returned a verdict of not guilty. Unlawful restraint has multiple components that must each be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt, one of the components being intention. Perhaps the jury did not feel certain beyond a reasonable doubt that he had mal intent, we don’t know. 

We respect and appreciate the hard work and integrity of the jury and accept their verdict. But we are left with no remedy for the fact that in a late night taxi ride, Mr. Morley did divert from the main road to drive these women to his home; that whatever his intention, they were scared to death that night with lasting impact. Mr. Morley is now restored to operating his taxi service without any conditions to ensure the safety of his passengers. Furthermore, Mr. Morley doesn’t believe the young women were that scared, nor did he see that he did anything wrong. He chalks the incident up to “some cultural misunderstandings” and is quoted in this paper as saying, “They put me through hell.” Not that he’s sorry this happened, or regrets the impact this had on the women, or better yet, that he understands how very frightening his actions were that night or how they might be perceived by others.

Taxi driving is an unregulated profession in Vermont. There is no licensing process, no background checks, no professional guidelines, no complaint process; anyone can call themselves a taxi driver. It is time that we increase public safety by regulating the taxi driving profession. The criminal justice system is not an adequate tool to ensure that taxi rides in Vermont are carried out in a professional and safe manner. There is a wide range of behavior that might not rise to the level of criminal activity or might be difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt but are still well outside what anyone would consider acceptable for the profession.

The Vermont Secretary of State’s Office of Professional Regulation (OPR) regulates 52 professions including such roles as Barbers, Funeral Service, Massage Therapists, Tattooists, etc. Each has a licensing process, as well as statutes and administrative rules for the profession, and there is a state-level complaint process in the event of unprofessional conduct. Surely, in terms of potential impact on a customer, Taxi Driving warrants regulation as much as any of these. For the sake of public safety, before something even worse happens, and to simply be able to trust that when you call a taxi you can expect a safe and professional transit from origin to destination, taxi driving needs a determination that it should be a regulated profession under OPR, with a licensure process including a background check, professional guidelines, and a complaint process.

Background: I worked with these six women in summer 2022 and was present when they got back to Salisbury that night and when the police came. I saw the ongoing impact this trauma had on them that summer. I also attended the trial and heard all the testimony April 17-19, 2024. The Addison Independent’s article does not accurately reflect what was presented and testified to during Mr. Morley’s criminal trial. Addison Independent owes it to their readers to do their due diligence for every article that makes it into their paper.

Dorothy Mammen

Middlebury

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