The Times
  • Rape survivor speaks out

  • Kimberlee Morton survived a brutal rape and has since worked to change Tennessee state law to require violent rapists to serve out their prison terms.

    Now she is setting her sights on changing the law in New York state as well.

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  • Kimberlee Morton survived a brutal rape and has since worked to change Tennessee state law to require violent rapists to serve out their prison terms.
    Now she is setting her sights on changing the law in New York state as well.
    A packed auditorium of Herkimer County Community College students were on hand in the Robert McLaughlin College Center Tuesday to hear Morton, a 2009 Herkimer County Community College graduate, tell about the attack and how she became an activist who worked to get state lawmakers to close a loophole that allowed her assailant to serve only a portion of his sentence.
    Morton was 20 years old and an aspiring model in 1998 when she let a man she had long considered a friend, even a “big brother,” into her apartment in South Memphis, Tenn. But Carlos Thomas grabbed her, raped her, stabbed her and choked her and poured Clorox over her, leaving her with second-degree burns. Then he asked her how she wanted to be killed.
    Morton said she asked Thomas why he had attacked her.
    “He said, ‘You know why,’” she told her audience. But she didn’t.
    She begged him not to kill her, promising not to tell who had done it. Thomas said he would take her television to make it look like a robbery and send help. After he left, she managed to get up. When she saw herself in the mirror, Morton was shocked.
    “I was bloody from head to foot and there were cords around my neck,” she said.
    A neighbor helped her. It wasn’t until she was taken to a hospital that she found out the extent of her injuries that included  punctured lungs, stab wounds to the neck and side, burst blood vessels in her eyes and second-degree burns over a large part of her body from the Clorox. Thomas hoped to cover up the physical evidence with the Clorox, said Morton.
    Thomas was arrested and Morton had the opportunity to speak at his trial. “I told him, ‘God spared my life and I’m going to put your sorry ass away for good,’” she said. She was disappointed with Thomas’ sentence — 15 years — but walked out of the courtroom feeling empowered.
    Morton said she felt God had spared her life and had a purpose for her. She enrolled in Job Corps, a free education and training program, and night school. “I was going to school about 13 hours a day,” she said. After completing her high school education, she enrolled in college and eventually transferred to HCCC and graduated with an associate in applied sciences degree in Human Services.
    In 2011, Morton, who now resides in Utica, was shocked to hear Thomas was going to be released from prison after serving 12 years of his 15-year sentence.
    Page 2 of 2 - “I rode the bus from New York to Memphis,” she said. She wrote letters to everyone she could think of asking Thomas not be released from prison early, but to no avail.
    “They say the criminal justice system is to protect the victim,” she said. “No it’s not. It’s to protect the criminal. They have more rights than the victim.”
    She learned that while Tennessee law said the those convicted of aggravated rape were to serve their entire sentence, a different section of the code allowed convicts to receive sentence reduction credits of up to 15 percent of their sentences based on good behavior while incarcerated.
    Morton was determined to close that loophole. She made calls, told her story to the news media and circulated petitions. Her efforts came to the attention of State Rep. Antonio Parkinson, who began action to close the loophole. In late May of this year, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed what became known as Kimberlee’s Law requiring violent rapists serve 100 percent of their prison terms.
    Morton was ecstatic, but said she is not finished. She said she plans to continue to be a voice for women who have been raped and may not have the courage to speak out.
    And she hopes to have Kimberlee’s Law eventually passed in all 50 states. She plans to take her case to the New York Legislature in March and is hoping some HCCC students will be willing to come along and support her in her efforts.
    Morton’s story was featured in JET magazine and will be on the Biography channel’s “I Survived” show on Oct. 28.
    Tuesday’s event was sponsored by the HCCC Women’s Club and Counseling Center. A representative from the YWCA of the Mohawk Valley told the audience the YWCA will have a therapist on campus every other Tuesday to talk with students who have been victims of sexual violence or have other concerns.