Martial arts instructor pleads not guilty to rape charges

Robert James Morrison on Sept. 8 entered a plea of not guilty to all charges during a brief arraignment at the Norm Maleng Justice Center in Kent.

Robert James Morrison on Sept. 8 entered a plea of not guilty to all charges during a brief arraignment at the Norm Maleng Justice Center in Kent.

Morrison, the owner of Lee’s Martial Arts studio in Renton and Maple Valley, is charged with three counts of rape of a child in the third degree one count of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes, stemming from statements made by former students, one of whom allegedly began a relationship with him when she was 14 that eventually progressed to sex. He also allegedly sent nude photos of himself to three other students.

Morrison is currently out on bail and appeared in court Thursday surrounded by family and supporters.

State prosecutor Joel Merkel requested five separate sexual assault protection orders and a no-contact order with all minors.

Morrison’s attorney, Philip Thornton of Tacoma, requested a change to supervised contact with minors because though Morrison has stepped away from the school, Thornton argued that as owner, he may need to visit the building, which could include the possibility of being around minors.

Merkel countered that because the school is where Morrison is alleged to have met his victims and said the circumstances described by Thornton were precisely what the state was concerned about.

Judge Bill A. Bowman ultimately determined that Morrison could be at the school if supervised by someone who knew about the case, according to Thronton.

Following the arraignment, Morrison left the courtroom with his supporters, who circled him and protected him from television cameras as they entered the elevator. Neither he nor Thornton made any statements or comments to the press.

Morrison is innocent until proven guilty. His case-setting hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sept. 20 at the Norm Maleng Justice Center in Kent.

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