BY KEN LITTLE
A pending decision on a case by the U.S. Supreme Court has prompted another continuance of the sentence of a man convicted in the 2012 robbery of a Greeneville bank.
Senior U.S. District Judge Leon Jordan granted a motion last week to continue until Aug. 22 the sentencing date in U.S. District Court of Larry Shane Morgan, according to court documents.
Morgan, 37, was convicted by a district court jury in October 2012 of armed bank robbery and five other crimes connected to the July 2, 2012, holdup of a Greeneville Federal Bank branch and the June 28, 2012 robbery of the Stop & Go Convenience Market in Chuckey.
He was scheduled to be sentenced on June 6. But because of a legal question currently being decided by the Supreme Court, the sentencing date was continued for the second time this year.
When Morgan is sentenced, he will receive a prison term of at least 35 years, prosecutors have said.
MORGAN CASE IMPACT
The U.S. Supreme Court case involved is Alleyne v. United States.
The high court's ruling in that case will determine what sentence Jordan can impose on Morgan, prosecutors have said.
The Supreme Court must determine whether a jury or a judge will decide if a defendant merely possessed a firearm during a robbery (the least serious of three possibilities), or brandished a weapon (the next most serious possibility), or actually fired it (the most serious option).
Depending on which of the three options is involved in a particular case, the minimum prison sentence increases from five years, to seven years, to 10 years.
A 25-year sentence is added for firing a gun during a second robbery.
Morgan trial testimony showed that he committed all three actions in both robberies of which he was convicted.
"It's a sentencing issue," Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Bowman recently said of the case before the Supreme Court.
The 'ALLEYNE' CASE
In the case before the Supreme Court, a Virginia jury found Allen Alleyne guilty of robbery under a federal statute, but the jury didn't find him guilty of brandishing a weapon during the robbery.
A federal criminal statute provides, however, that a judge can raise the mandatory minimum sentence for robbery if the judge finds that it was more likely than not that the defendant brandished a firearm.
That means a judge's finding can raise the mandatory minimum prison sentence even when a jury was unable to come to that same conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Supreme Court allowed such findings from judges in a previous case called Harris v. United States.
With the Alleyne case, the court will reconsider that position, or will have the opportunity to further clarify how much sentencing discretion can be given to judges under federal statutes.
Morgan, formerly of Chuckey, remains in federal custody awaiting sentencing.
In addition to armed bank robbery, Morgan was found guilty by the jury of four other charges: aiding and abetting a robbery affecting interstate commerce; aiding and abetting the use, carrying, brandishing or discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; using, carrying or brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; and being a felon in possession of ammunition.
He could receive what amounts to an effective life sentence for the crimes. The two firearms possession counts alone carry minimum sentences of 35 years, Bowman said at the conclusion of Morgan's trial.
Two other co-defendants in the case, Kaylen Butcher and Brandon Shelton, were recently sentenced in federal court for their roles in assisting Morgan.
Butcher, who was with Morgan during the Stop & Go robbery, received a five-year prison sentence 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 on a conviction of making a false statement in a matter within the jurisdiction of the U.S. government.
Butcher and Shelton, both 19 at the time of sentencing, offered prosecution testimony at Morgan's trial. That action, and their youth, mitigated toward a lighter sentence for each, court officials said.
IN CUSTODY SINCE JULY
Morgan, a convicted felon, was arrested on July 3, 2012, outside a motel in Johnson City.
He fired a gun during both robberies, first at the Stop & Go Market, at 6910 E. Andrew Johnson Hwy., and a few days later at the Greeneville Federal Bank branch at 2305 E. Andrew Johnson Hwy.
Prosecution evidence and trial testimony showed Morgan was carrying more than $25,000 in cash when he was taken into custody.