19-year-old Zachery Morrison was sentenced in 4th Judicial District Court April 20th, after pleading "Guilty" in December on one count of sexual abuse of a minor. Morrison admitted to having had inappropriate sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl in September 2009 when he was 18-years-old. Sheridan Media's Mary Jo Johnson has the report.
It wasn't a cut-and-dried sentencing for Morrison. Lengthy discussion took place between Judge John Fenn and prosecutor for the State, Deputy County Attorney Christopher LaRosa. Per a plea agreement that brought about Morrison's December guilty plea, the State recommended a 3-to-5 year suspended sentence, 120 days in the county jail, and 5 years of supervised probation. The felony typically carries a prison sentence up to fifteen years.
Judge Fenn spent some time debating the plea agreement, stating his concern that Morrison, for one so young, has already established a lengthy criminal history and has had numerous opportunities for probation and rehabilitation through juvenile courts. At one point, Judge Fenn asked, "When does punishment and consequence become a priority?" Public Defender Robert Jones responded by saying that Morrison has never had a prison sentence hanging over his head before. Jones also said that Morrison's past experiences in treatment programs had been interrupted because his family moved.
LaRosa and a probation officer told Judge Fenn that the terms of probation would be very stringent. After carefully deliberating, Judge Fenn rejected the Plea Agreement, sentenced Morrison to not less than five and not more than eight years in prison, suspended. He imposed a 120-day split sentence -- Morrison has already been in the Sheridan County Detention Center for 200 days -- and put him on a five-year supervised probation, which includes time in counseling and treatment, employment, and regular contact with his probation officer, to name just a few requirements.
Before adjourning court, Judge Fenn warned Morrison that this was absolutely his last chance, and that a lot of people would be working to ensure his success. But if he faltered on even one probation requirement, he would be sent to prison.
Covering 4th Judicial District Court, for sheridanmedia.com news, I'm Mary Jo Johnson.