Charges Dropped Against Former Thesis Exec Accused of Embezzlement

Prosecutors say they’ll refile the case, which was dismissed due to a shortage of public defenders.

Share this article!

The embezzlement case against a Portland ad exec has been dropped in response to the state’s severe shortage of public defenders, though officials insist Isaac Lee Morris will one day see a courtroom. 

The Oregonian reports this week a Multnomah County circuit judge dismissed all charges against Morris, 36, after three failed attempts to find him an attorney. 

In September, Morris was charged with systemic theft from his onetime employer, digital advertising and marketing firm Thesis. Morris’ 35-felony indictment contains numerous allegations of aggravated first-degree theft and aggravated identity theft.  

In a lawsuit, now dismissed, Thesis alleged Morris stole around $815,000 in 2020-21. 

A spokesperson for the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office told Oregon Business the office intends to refile the case.

“Please note that we did not dismiss charges in this case,” spokeswoman Liz Merah wrote. “Our office does not have control over which cases are appointed counsel.” 

Among the witnesses to testify to a grand jury in September was Thesis board president and former CEO Ryan Buchanan. Founded by Buchanan in 2002, Thesis is a top-five creative agency in Portland with annual local billings around $36 million, according to the Portland Business Journal

The firm rebranded in 2019 away from its old handle, eROI, and today offers clients a range of services including digital development, copywriting and tech strategy. It recently relocated its headquarters to a new, four-story mass timber building at the site of the former U.S. Post Office Forest Park Station in Slabtown. 

Thesis CEO Keely York told Oregon Business the company is not giving up. 

“We have every intention of assisting with the refiling of charges and seeing the legal process through to completion,” she said.

Morris was Thesis’ chief product officer and an entrepreneur in his own right. In a 2020 interview with the website Digital Trends, he discussed the fashion app he founded, Threadbare, a “personal styling assistant powered by the crowd.” 

For $20 a month, Threadbare provided style guidance based on the clothing a person already owned. When a user signed up for the service, their clothing was collected at their home and taken to Threadbare’s fulfillment center, where the items were scanned to create a “digital closet.” 

Threadbare’s website is no longer active.

Morris served on the board of directors of the Portland nonprofit Friends of the Children. A spokeswoman said Morris left the board in August 2022.

The shortage of public defenders is a nationwide crisis felt acutely in Oregon, where 90% of defendants rely on a public defender and where today 2,500 of those charged with crimes are unrepresented. 

The American Bar Association has called on public defender offices in Oregon to double their staff sizes in order to provide adequate representation. 

An independent commission released a plan last month that recommends doubling the budget of the Office of Public Defense Services, from $576 million to $1.3 billion, according to a report by Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Click here to subscribe to Oregon Business.