Influential Camden leader charged for attack at ‘Elite Professionals’ dinner

Bryan Morton coaches a child in Camden in 2011, at about the time he founded the North Camden Little League. (April Saul for WHYY)

Bryan Morton coaches a child in Camden in 2011, at about the time he founded the North Camden Little League. (April Saul for WHYY)

The “Camden City’s Elite Professionals Dinner Event” on Oct. 10 was supposed to be about young entrepreneurs learning from older entrepreneurs, said Chris Collins, CEO of the Camden publication Anointed News Journal and one of two speakers at the event.

By the end of the evening, held in a tent at KIPP Cooper Norcross Academy, attendee Rashan Prailow had suffered a serious head wound. His alleged attacker, Bryan Morton — founder and president of Parents for Great Camden Schools and the North Camden Little League — is now facing charges of third-degree aggravated assault; fourth-degree unlawful possession of a weapon; and third-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, according to the Camden County Prosecutor’s office. Morton, a Democratic Committeeman, is married to Camden City Council member Felisha Reyes-Morton.

Tawanda Jones, founder of the Camden Sophisticated Sisters, was a guest at the event. She said she replays the scene “in my mind every night, because I can’t get over how much blood was on Rashan’s face.”

If her son, Robb Jones — her escort that night — learned anything, it was that adults he had hoped to admire “don’t practice what they preach.”

“It was disgusting,” he said.  “I just thought that older people were more mature.”

The dinner ran smoothly for the first several hours, said guests. It wasn’t until Morton took the microphone some time after 8 p.m., said Tawanda Jones, that trouble began.

“Bryan was calling people’s names out to be quiet while he was talking,” she said.  “He said, ‘I need everyone’s attention. This is my city, I run this city!’  He was very arrogant.”

According to witnesses, the exchange between Morton and Prailow began when Morton talked about the younger generation in the city needing to do more for Camden. Prailow, a Woodrow Wilson High School and University of Pennsylvania graduate who was an intern in the Obama White House, responded that he could have used more support during his unsuccessful campaign for Camden City Council in 2018. Prailow told police that Morton then said, “We all know about you and you don’t live here. You’re a f—–g joke and we’re all laughing at you.”

At that point, said Jones, “Bryan walked across the room toward him. Rashan stood up and said, ‘I love this city.’

“And the next thing you know, Bryan hit him in the face with the microphone.”

Prailow said after the blow to his head, Morton placed his hand around Prailow’s neck. Prailow then hit his head again when the two men fell to the turf.

At the same time, said Jones, Morton’s wife, Council member Reyes-Morton, appeared to challenge Prailow’s longtime girlfriend Maya Carr to a fist fight.

Neither Morton nor Reyes-Morton responded to requests for comment.

While Morton rose to prominence by creating the North Camden Little League, he has grown more influential by founding Parents for Great Camden Schools. That organization is a backer of the rapidly growing charter and renaissance school sector in Camden, which has both strong supporters and detractors. He’s also a member of the board of the Camden Health and Athletic Association as well as WHYY’s Community Advisory Board.

Rashan Prailow speaks at an Oct. 15 press conference at Camden’s police headquarters about his alleged assault by Bryan Morton at a recent dinner. At left is his longtime girlfriend Maya Carr, who also attended the dinner. (April Saul for WHYY)

At a Thursday news conference in front of the Camden police headquarters, Carr — who is the founder of the nonprofit Around the Way Girl, Inc. — was in tears. She characterized Morton as “a ticking time bomb” and “a dangerous man.”

“On Saturday,” Carr said, “I attended a beautiful dinner in Camden…During this dinner, I witnessed an elected city leader physically assault my invited guest with a lethal weapon. This is the man that I love…and I watched him bleed.”

Prailow went to the hospital later that night and said he didn’t go to police until he discovered that Morton had actually tried to press charges against him after the incident.

Collins said he had hoped to broker a peace.

“You got two great guys who are both leaders in the city of Camden,” Collins said. “We need to handle this internally.”

At the news conference, Camden activist Ronsha Dickerson called for both Morton and Reyes-Morton to be stripped of their respective positions.

Prailow, wearing a bandage on his forehead, echoed that sentiment.

“I don’t want him involved in no more city functions, no more city activities, and he damn sure shouldn’t be around kids,” he said of Morton.  “There’s a lot of men and women in this city that can fulfill that role.

“You need to find the right people to make the city move forward in a positive way.”

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