A Forsyth County man sentenced to prison this week on drug charges said he found God while awaiting trial.
William D. Morrow III, 46, was convicted March 3 on one count each of manufacturing marijuana and trafficking marijuana in a bench trial before Forsyth County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley.
On Wednesday, Bagley sentenced Morrow to serve 15 years in prison and pay a $100,000 fine.
Morrow has been in custody since he was arrested April 8, 2008, after authorities discovered an indoor “grow house” in the basement of his home at 5220 Ridge Farms Drive.
Authorities called his activities a sophisticated indoor marijuana-growing operation.
Before Bagley handed down his punishment, Morrow said he has developed a newfound faith in Christianity.
“On May 11, 2008, in jail the Holy Spirit came into my heart and the old Bill died and a new man was born,” Morrow said. “All who know me can clearly see I am a new person.”
He expressed remorse and asked for forgiveness from the court, God, his family and others he may have hurt. Morrow said that jail has been more than punishment for him.
“It has allowed me to look at myself and what I was and I did not like what I saw,” he said.
Morrow’s attorney, Rafe Banks, said his client has accepted responsibility for his actions, and the time his client had spent in jail had an effect on him.
He asked for a more lenient sentence of 15 years, with five to serve in prison.
Forsyth County Assistant District Attorney James Dunn said Morrow should be punished.
“The defendant, while he was in custody, may have been sewing the seeds of the Holy Spirit, but in April 2008 the only seeds he was sewing were marijuana,” Dunn said. “And that was on a huge scale.”
Dunn argued that the 764 plants authorities collected at Morrow’s house could have produced $2.2 million worth of the illegal drug.
He noted that Morrow was on probation for possession of a sawed-off firearm when arrested on the drug charges.
He went on to say the probationary period was Morrow’s chance to “fly the straight and narrow, and he thumbed his nose at this court.”
Forsyth County Sheriff’s investigators testified during Morrow’s bench trial that he divided his basement into four rooms and grew the plants hydroponically, or without soil.
They said Morrow used electrical and ventilation systems, including halogen lights operated on tracks by a timer.
Morrow’s father, William D. Morrow Jr., testified Wednesday on his son’s behalf.
“I want to apologize for my family causing problems,” he said.
Morrow is also the father of Pamela Morrow Graf, 48, who is awaiting trial on unrelated arson and drug charges.
He said he thinks his son is remorseful and “understands now what it would have done to the community.”
“Right now his attitude is good and I don’t think being in jail for longer is going to be good for him,” Morrow said. “And my fear is it’s going to hurt him and he’s going to come out something other than what he is now.”
Scott Burgess, director of the Cumming Police Department, also testified on Morrow’s behalf.
He explained that Morrow has worked as a "trusty" at the police department while in custody, displaying a good attitude and accepting whatever work is assigned.
Burgess added that Morrow has also performed tasks on his own accord, without first being asked.
Bagley said that while he was impressed with Morrow’s change of heart, he agreed with Dunn.
“Because of the volumes of marijuana that you’ve produced and sold there’s no way you’ll ever know how many lives that you’ve destroyed by virtue of manufacturing and selling drugs,” Bagley said.
“I think that society must exact punishment for what you have done ... this was a huge operation and many lives were affected.”