DA: Morris deal 'fair' He seeks 4-month term 'minimum,' 10-year probation for Raven

Plea bargain in works

'No question this lady was involved in assault'

January 09, 1998|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

If Rockwall County, Texas, District Attorney Ray Sumrow gets his wish next week, Ravens running back Bam Morris will begin serving a jail term of at least four months, after which, as a convicted felon, he would be required to report to a Texas parole meeting once a month for the next 10 years.

Morris' trial is scheduled for Tuesday in Rockwall County, where he has been charged with violating the terms of his 1996 probation on a marijuana conviction.

In addition to charges that Morris failed to report to seven meetings with his probation officers, the recent assault charges filed by Dallas resident April Dawn Brittain stemming from an incident at a Nov. 16 party in Woodlawn are expected to affect Morris' future.

Sumrow and Keith Wheeler, Morris' attorney, have been pursuing a plea bargain arrangement this week. They plan to present their agreement to District Court Judge Sue Pirtle on Monday.

Sumrow said he wants Morris to begin serving a "minimum of 120 days immediately" in Rockwall's county jail, after which Morris would be required to meet monthly with a parole officer in Rockwall. Sumrow also wants Morris' original probation increased from six to 10 years.

"Nothing is a done deal until we get the approval of the judge. I'm going to ask the court to impose the sentence and adjudicate [Morris], making him a convicted felon," Sumrow said.

"I'd like to say that [Wheeler] will absolutely accept it, but I don't know that for sure. If I were sitting on the opposite side of the desk, obviously I wouldn't be pleased when my client went off to jail. But knowing the facts as I know them, this is a fair deal."

Morris' original probation stems from an arrest on March 23, 1996, when he was charged with possession after police found 6 pounds of marijuana and 1 1/2 grams of cocaine in his car near his hometown of Cooper, Texas.

Four months later, Morris pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana in exchange for a Texas prosecutor's recommendation that he not be imprisoned and that the cocaine charges be dropped. Morris was fined $7,000 and given six years deferred adjudication or probation, meaning the drug charges eventually could be removed from his record. Morris also was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

Last August, nearly a year after the Ravens took a chance on Morris by signing him to a two-year, $1.8 million contract, Morris was suspended for the first four games of the 1997 season after he tested positive for alcohol in violation of league policy.

Morris, who turns 26 on the day of his trial, went on to lead the Ravens with 774 rushing yards in 11 games. Midway through his shortened season, he was involved in the altercation with Brittain. Morris is an unrestricted free agent, and team owner Art Modell said he would not make a decision to pursue Morris again until after the trial.

Wheeler said earlier this week that Morris' missed probation meetings lie at the heart of the case. Sumrow agreed, although he disputed Wheeler's claim that the assault charges against Morris would have little bearing on his fate.

"The assault plays into it," said Sumrow, who interviewed witnesses during a two-day visit to Baltimore last week. "I've gotten different versions [of what happened at the party]. I've also got 911 tapes and [police] photographs. There is no question this lady [Brittain] was involved in an assault. As for the missed meetings, I can make that case unequivocally.

"The court gave [Morris] a chance, and he didn't take advantage of that chance," Sumrow said. "I guess the question is, how many times do you give someone a chance to clean up their act?"

VTC Pub Date: 1/09/98

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