Originally created 04/12/98

Bam Morris released from jail



DALLAS -- NFL free agent running back Bam Morris was released from the Rockwall County jail Saturday after serving 89 days of a 120-day sentence for marijuana possession.

Jay Ethington, one of Morris' lawyers, says he's a changed man.

"His life starts over Saturday," Ethington said Friday. "He has his head up, his eyes open and an optimistic look on his face. This is someone who has his head screwed on as good as we could hope for."

If Morris messes up again, he's looking at 10 years in prison.

Morris, 26, now is an unrestricted free agent after the Baltimore Ravens cut him Jan. 28.

He originally was arrested in his native Texas, near Rockwall, on March 22, 1996, when a state trooper found six pounds of marijuana in the trunk of his Mercedes-Benz. That June, he pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana and prosecutors dropped a more serious charge of cocaine possession.

He was placed on six years' probation, fined $7,000 and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service.

But he ended up having to serve jail time after admitting he missed seven meetings with his probation officer from July 1996 to August 1997.

Morris denied prosecutors' allegations that he also violated his probation by consuming alcohol and assaulting Dallas resident April Dawn Brittain at a Nov. 16 birthday party in Woodlawn, Md. A hearing on that case has been indefinitely postponed.

In January 1998, his attorney arranged a plea bargain with Texas prosecutors that he serve 120 days in jail for a 10-year prison sentence. He also was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and fined $2,000. State District judge Sue Pirtle told Morris at the time that if he violates the provisions of that deal, he will be sent to prison for the remainder of the 10 years.

Rockwall County sheriff Jacques Kiere said Friday that Morris was allowed to leave after serving only 89 days because he had worked as a trusty and had tutored other inmates.

A jail spokesman who would give only his last name of Leftwich said Saturday that Morris left early in the morning "to avoid the media crunch."

Morris was a high school star in his hometown of Cooper, about 80 miles northeast of Dallas, then became a college star at Texas Tech. After winning the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top collegiate running back in 1993, he entered the NFL and starred with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He helped lead the Steelers to the Super Bowl in 1996 and was the game's leading rusher, but he was released months later after his legal troubles began.

He played for the Ravens the past two seasons, although the NFL suspended him from the first four games of the 1997 season for violating the league's substance abuse policy.