PENSACOLA — Former Okaloosa County Sheriff Charlie Morris, who tearfully pleaded no contest to state charges of racketeering and money laundering on Feb. 4, 2010, finally will be sentenced today for those crimes.
Teresa Adams, the sheriff’s office’s administrative director under Morris, will be sentenced with him for the same charges.
A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for 3 p.m. at the Escambia County Courthouse in Pensacola before Circuit Judge Linda Nobles.
State guidelines call for a sentence of more than six years for each.
Nobles could rule either to impose jail or prison time on top of what Morris and Adams already have received in federal court or to allow their state and federal sentences to run concurrently.
“I pray each day that Judge Nobles will give me a concurrent sentence to run with my federal time,” Morris said in a letter he sent recently to current Sheriff Larry Ashley.
The FBI arrested Morris and Adams on Feb. 27, 2009, after the unraveling of an employee bonus kickback scheme they had concocted three years earlier.
Both pleaded guilty to fraud, theft and money laundering charges within several months of their arrest.
Morris is presently serving a 71-month federal prison sentence to be followed by three years probation.
In his letter to Ashley, he wrote that he hopes to be released by May 2014.
Adams was sentenced in September 2009 to 36 months in federal prison. She completed her federal sentence earlier this year but remains on a three-year supervised probation.
The state charges were filed in July 2009. Morris and Adams, along with Sheriff’s Office employees Mike Coup, David Yacks and Sandra Norris were charged with racketeering. Sabra Thornton, Morris’ chief of staff and mistress, was charged with grand theft.
At the time Morris and Adams entered their state court pleas, State Attorney Bill Eddins said he favored tacking on at least some time to be served after their federal prison sentences had ended.
“We intend to ask that he receive some jail time consecutive to the federal time,” he said in 2010 after Morris entered his plea.
Thornton had just been tried when the pleas were entered in state court. Morris and Adams testified for the prosecution in the case.
Morris and Adams since then have served as prosecution witnesses at the trials of Coup, Norris and Yacks.
Morris also testified last month against Randall Holcombe, his former assistant director of administrative services, who was the last to be charged in connection with the kickback scheme.
Russ Edgar, who prosecuted all of the cases, referred to Morris during Holcombe’s trial as “a beaten man.”
Edgar said that he’s not sure he’ll present a sentencing recommendation to Nobles on today.
“I might just allow the judge to decide a sentence,” he said. “I’ll see what he (Morris) has to say for himself.”
Morris’ attorney, Ken Ridlehoover, said of his client: “I think he’s been punished enough.
“I’m sure there are a lot of people who don’t think that, but he’s serving 71 months with three years probation,” Ridlehoover said. “Charlie Morris has lost everything.”
Barry Beroset, Adams’ attorney, had no comment on the sentencing hearing.
Ridlehoover said Morris “would tell you” he wasn’t mentally fit to serve as sheriff during his last term in office.
“He was out of control. He got the big head,” he said.
In his letter to Ashley, Morris offered to forgive the new sheriff for “turning me in to the federal authorities.”
“I hold no ill will or malice toward you or anyone else at the Sheriff’s Office,” the letter said.
“What you did was right and it will always be the right decision. I forgive you and all the others and the past is the past,” it said.
Morris also wrote: “I have spent the last three years finding out what went wrong with me and caused me to totally destroy a stellar career that I had worked so hard over 34 years to build.”
He said he is rebuilding his life “with the help of many great professionals and people of faith.”
Morris also told Ashley he is power walking 50 miles a week and has lost 55 pounds.
“I am now the person I should have been all along and not the arrogant, self-centered jerk I was before all this happened,” the letter said.
“It is time to move forward.”
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Tom McLaughlin at 850-315-4435 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomMnwfdn.