Plea Bargain in Unrelated Forgery Case : Teen Bank Robber Drops Appeal, Begins 5-Year Term
Teen-age bank robber Michael Scott Morrison, in an agreement with prosecutors, pleaded guilty Tuesday to forgery and agreed to drop an appeal of his robbery convictions.
Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Alan B. Haber ordered Morrison, 19, of Tarzana, to begin serving the five-year California Youth Authority sentence he received in July.
Morrison pleaded guilty in June to the 1985 armed robberies of a Barclay’s Bank branch in Tarzana and of a woman whose car was taken in the parking lot of a Woodland Hills fast-food restaurant.
Despite his guilty pleas, Morrison, who was 16 at the time of the robberies, appealed a ruling that he was fit to be tried as an adult. He also appealed the admissibility of evidence that his attorney said was obtained illegally by police. If the appeals court had ruled in his favor, his guilty plea could have been set aside and he could have sought another trial.
In exchange for dropping his appeal, Morrison will not have to serve any more time in custody for the forgery, which involved credit-card fraud.
On Tuesday, Haber sentenced him to 16 months in the youth authority with two years suspended on the forgery charge. But the judge made the sentence concurrent with Morrison’s earlier robbery sentence.
The forgery charge stemmed from Morrison’s arrest Dec. 17 after he tried to buy $550 in clothes from the Leather Bound store in the Sherman Oaks Galleria using a MasterCard that belonged to the wife of a police officer, prosecutors said. The woman had left the card on a counter the night before in a department store where Morrison worked in another Sherman Oaks shopping mall, authorities said.
Morrison’s attorney, Roger Jon Diamond, and Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert P. Imerman praised the plea agreement. Each said he was unsure he could win a favorable appeal-court ruling.
The appeal challenged the ruling that Morrison was fit to be tried as an adult on the basis that the decision was made without benefit of a legally mandated recommendation from a probation officer. It also questioned whether evidence discovered through an improperly obtained confession would have been uncovered anyway by police, as prosecutors argued and as Haber ruled.
Morrison could have received eight months more if he had been sentenced consecutively for the forgery conviction, Imerman said.
An accomplice in the robberies, Mark Berman, 19, of Tarzana, pleaded guilty to armed robbery in August, 1985, in Sylmar Juvenile Court. He was released this fall after two years in youth authority custody.
The youth authority must release Morrison by his 25th birthday under state law. Morrison would have had to spend more time in County Jail awaiting trial on the forgery charge if he had not agreed to drop the appeal and admit the forgery, Diamond said. The sooner Morrison is in the hands of the youth authority, the sooner he gets a chance at parole, Diamond said.
Diamond said his client is trying to mend his ways. He said Morrison is enrolled in Los Angeles Valley College and plans to complete college in San Francisco.
Morrison withdrew from a student-government campaign last spring at Los Angeles Pierce College after the student newspaper disclosed his criminal case. He withdrew from the school last fall after he was involved in a fight with his former campaign manager. A misdemeanor battery charge was filed against Morrison, but was later dismissed.