The arrest of a CBS news anchor caught the attention of news media from across the country, leading to the man’s resignation from his New York City job after allegations that he choked his wife and later threatened to kill her while at Darien Police headquarters.
Officers arrived at the home of Rob Morrison, morning anchor of WCBS News 2, just after 1:30 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 17. Morrison had blood on his nose and a bruised lip, which was evident in his mug shot taken later that morning. Police said his wife, Ashley Morrison, anchor of CBS MoneyWatch, had red marks on her neck from her husband’s attempts to choke her.
Capt. Fred Komm told the Darien Times that Ashley “attempted to defend herself, as is her right, thus the facial injuries” to her husband. She refused medical attention, Komm added.
Morrison resigned from his position at CBS on Wednesday, the station confirmed.
“My family is my first and only priority right now and I have informed CBS 2 management that I need to put all of my time and energy into making sure that I do what’s best for my wife and my son,” Morrison said in a statement.
Police said Ashley’s mother, Stamford resident Martha Risk, called police to inform them of the fight. Morrison was taken to police headquarters and processed for strangulation, a class D felony. While being processed, police said he threatened to kill his wife should they release him from custody.
Police then charged him with misdemeanor threatening and set his bond at $100,000, which he later posted.
“The shift supervisor set the bond based on the seriousness of the charges, in particular the strangulation charge,” Komm stated in an email, “coupled with the fact that while in police custody he threatened to do the victim additional harm.”
An emergency protective order was also issued against Morrison, which stipulated he have no contact with his wife and remain at least 100 yards away from her. Morrison, a former Marine, has a history of domestic violence incidents going back to 2003, according to New York Police Department records, including one arrest in 2009. One incident involved Ashley smacking and punching her husband. The New York Post quoted Ashley’s mother as saying she was not surprised to hear of the arrest and that her daughter is afraid to leave her husband.
When Morrison appeared at Stamford Court early Tuesday, he was met by a swarm of reporters, and claimed he never choked his wife and never struck her. He also apologized to Darien Police for his actions while being processed.
The couple had earlier released a joint statement through Morrison’s lawyer. They called the allegations “greatly exaggerated,” and said they are both “cooperating fully with the authorities to insure that all of the information necessary to properly evaluate this unfortunate incident is made available.”
The Morrisons also asked that their privacy be respected. During the days after the incident, Darien Police responded several times to the couple’s home, which is across from Middlesex Middle School, where dozens of reporters were camped out, attempting to get reactions by ringing the Morrisons’ doorbell.
Reporters from the New York Post, the New York Daily News and NBC News 12 were all seen at one time or another in the area. The Daily News posted a photo of Ashley peaking out her front door.
Steve Mandel, a New York attorney representing Ashley Morrison, has not responded to requests for comment.
At the Tuesday court hearing, Robert Skovgaard, Rob Morrison’s attorney, filed a motion to remove the restraining order against his client. He told Judge Kenneth Povodator that Morrison and his wife share a desk at the CBS network’s New York office, and that the protective order should be lifted to allow him to work. Morrison, however, later resigned.
A victim’s advocate, who was unnamed, spoke on behalf of Ashley Morrison, and told the court that Ashley also desired to have the protective order lifted. The couple also has a young son, but there are no restrictions on Rob Morrison visiting him, said Judge Povodator at the hearing.
The state’s attorney requested the protective order remain in place, given the severity of the charges and Morrison’s history. Povodator agreed, and appeared skeptical of reducing the terms of the order, as requested by Morrison’s attorney.
“The police report indicates a likelihood of a serious history,” Povodator said. “I would tend to err on the side of safety.”
The judge kept the order in place, but allowed the 100-yard rule to be lifted while Morrison is at work. Morrison did not show up to his office on Tuesday, Feb. 19, and his absence from WCBS morning news was not mentioned on air, according to reports. Morrison’s network had a van present at his court appearance on Tuesday.
Skovgaard also urged the court to move his client’s court date up, as the March 26 date set by the court doesn’t “fall within the purview of a speedy trial.” That date would determine whether the protective order remains in place or is lifted.
At least four of the past domestic disputes between the Morrison couple handled by New York police involved Rob Morrison under the influence of alcohol. It’s unclear if alcohol was a factor in last weekend’s arrest. The couple moved to Darien in 2011.
Morrison faces felony strangulation and misdemeanor threatening and disorderly conduct charges. His next court date is set for Tuesday, March 26, pending any changes requested by his attorney.
CBS Spokesman Rachel Ferguson declined to comment on the case, “because this is a personal matter,” she said. Ferguson later confirmed Morrison’s resignation.
Sgt. Alison Hudyma, a domestic violence liaison officer for the Darien Police Department, earlier told the Times that very few domestic violence incidents are reported, especially the more violent ones.
“The serious offenders are still hiding,” she said. “People are still scared to come out.”
The Domestic Violence Crisis center provides safe houses for area adults, teens and children. In Darien, advocates aim to educate and bring awareness to the stigmatized issue.
Mary Henwood-Klotz, chairperson for domestic violence advocacy at Stamford Hospital, confirmed Hudyma’s suspicion about under-reported cases. She determined that a comprehensive domestic violence screening program was necessary when she found out that domestic violence was the leading cause of death for women 25 to 35.
“It was really the evidence that domestic violence is so prevalent in the U.S. and that it’s under-reported,” she said. “Some states don’t even require that health care providers report on it.”
The Darien Times generally does not print the names of those accused of domestic violence, nor does it print the names of victims. However, in cases involving public figures and accusations of a serious nature, exceptions to this policy are made.
Additional reporting by Susan Shultz and Yevgeniya Davydov.