BY KEN LITTLE
Larry Shane Morgan made a lot of noise during his brief career as a bank robber.
Morgan, 37, exited U.S. District Court in Greeneville without a word Thursday after receiving a prison sentence of more than 39 years for committing armed robberies last year at a Greeneville Federal Bank branch and a convenience store in Chuckey.
Morgan, formerly of Chuckey, fired a handgun during both robberies, narrowly missing a teller's head during the bank holdup. He also struck the convenience store owner on the head with the barrel of a gun.
Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Gregory Bowman, who prosecuted the case, told Senior U.S. District Judge Leon Jordan before sentencing that victims of Morgan's crimes still suffer from trauma-related effects.
He will not be eligible for parole and must serve the entire 471-month prison sentence, Bowman said.
Jordan agreed that Morgan's crimes were of a particularly violent nature.
"We need to send a message to the bank robbers. If you do the crime, you do the time," Jordan told Morgan, who sat in leg and wrist shackles at the defense table as he was sentenced.
"Certainly in this case, [the sentence] is necessary to protect the public," Jordan said.
Morgan had nothing to say before sentencing.
He was convicted by a jury in October 2012 of armed bank robbery and five other crimes.
The convictions were in connection with the July 2, 2012, robbery of the Greeneville Federal Bank branch at 2305 E. Andrew Johnson Hwy., and the June 28, 2012, robbery of the Stop & Go Convenience Market at 6910 E. Andrew Johnson Hwy. in Chuckey.
Two co-defendants in the case, Kaylen Butcher and Brandon Shelton, were sentenced earlier this year.
Butcher accompanied Morgan during the convenience store robbery. Morgan acted alone in the bank robbery.
Shelton helped Butcher dispose of evidence, including the gun used by Morgan, which was recently recovered by a Sullivan County Sheriff's Department dive team from the Greene County quarry where it was thrown.
Despite a recent Supreme Court ruling on another case involving the use of a firearm during commission of a crime that mitigated favorably in Morgan's sentencing guidelines, he likely won't get out of prison until he is approaching 80-years-old.
In addition to armed bank robbery, Morgan was found guilty at trial of five other charges: aiding and abetting a robbery affecting interstate commerce; aiding and abetting the use, carrying, brandishing or discharge of a firearm during a crime of violence; using, carrying or brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence; and being a felon in possession of ammunition.
Morgan committed the crimes while on supervised release on a prior federal conviction in Virginia, thus adding two additional years to his 447-month sentence.
Bowman asked Jordan to give Morgan more than the maximum sentence recommended by law.
Morgan's "violent history" is one reason, Bowman said.
"This is an unusual bank robbery," he said. "It's very rare to have a situation where [a gun] is actively fired."
Morgan subjected his victims to a "traumatic experience," Bowman added.
"The defendant ordered the gas station owner to the floor at gunpoint, and [similarly] ordered bank employees to the floor and told them he would return and shoot them if they pressed the alarm button," Morgan's sentencing memorandum said.
REQUESTS GUIDELINE SENTENCE
Assistant Federal Defender Nikki Pierce asked Jordan to sentence Morgan within the guideline range "that Mr. Morgan has earned," and not beyond it.
Pierce had no comment after sentencing.
Federal law mandates a five-year minimum mandatory sentence for possession of a firearm in the commission of a violent offense, with each additional offense of possession of a firearm in the commission of a violent offense carrying a 25-year minimum mandatory sentence.
Before he sentenced Morgan, Jordan watched security videos from the bank and convenience store robberies and saw Morgan fire shots over the heads of a bank teller and the store clerk.
"Some of them still feel the effect," Jordan said of the victims.
Jordan looked at Morgan's past criminal record and his use of firearms.
"This court needs to impose a sentence to reflect the seriousness of the offense," the judge said.
Morgan, wearing green jail pants and shirt with his long hair tied back in a tight braid, showed no emotion during sentencing.
A convicted felon, he was arrested on July 3, 2012, outside a motel in Johnson City. He was carrying more than $25,000 in cash when taken into custody by Greeneville police detectives.
Morgan was carrying several marked bills from the bank placed into a bag by a teller, and two money bands stamped with the bank's name, including one dated July 2, 2012.
Trial testimony showed that Morgan's black Chevrolet pickup truck was identified in the Greeneville Federal Bank parking lot just before that robbery took place, and was parked outside the Stop & Go Market on the night of June 28, 2012.
A bank employee testified at trial that she drove by Morgan's truck in the parking lot just before the robbery last year. The employee had helped Morgan get a loan for the truck and recognized it.
The Stop & Go clerk who was struck with a handgun by Morgan during the store robbery last year testified he looked outside after Morgan and Butcher left and identified the same truck.
Butcher, who was with Morgan during the Stop & Go robbery, received a five-year prison sentence in January from Jordan on convictions of robbery and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence.
Shelton, who helped dispose of evidence and initially lied to FBI investigators about his role, was given three years' probation in February on a conviction of making a false statement in a matter within the jurisdiction of the U.S. government.
Butcher and Shelton, both 19 when sentenced, offered prosecution testimony at Morgan's trial. That action, and their youth, were factors in lighter sentences for each, court officials said.
Morgan will be subject to supervised release for five years following release from prison. Jordan also ordered Morgan to pay restitution to the victims of his crimes.
Law enforcement agencies participating in the joint investigation include the Greeneville Police Department, the Greene County Sheriff's Department, the FBI, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Johnson City Police Department and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab.