Sentencing delayed in case of hidden dorm room cameras at UTC

Sentencing delayed in case of hidden dorm room cameras at UTC

April 17th, 2012 by Adam Poulisse in News

Bernard Morris, a UTC student charged with planting surveillance cameras in dorm rooms, stands during a 2011 hearing.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Bernard Morris, a former UTC student and resident assistant who installed cameras in students' dorm rooms last year, will have to wait another month for his sentencing.

On Monday, Morris' sentence was postponed until 1:30 p.m. on May 17 because the pre-sentence investigation report was unavailable.

"He'll have been in custody 14 months by the time this has concluded," Morris' attorney Michael Caputo said afterward. "But, this gives the court an opportunity to hear from everybody."

Last month, Morris pleaded guilty to four counts of aggravated burglary and two related charges. The three University of Tennessee at Chattanooga students who filed victim impact statements were present at the hearing, but all of them declined to comment.

During Monday's three-hour hearing, Morris' older sister Kahlilia, who flew in from Miami, said that her brother was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, when he was about 9 years old.

At the end of her testimony, Kahlilia Morris said to Judge Don W. Poole that her brother would be better suited to mental health treatment than to imprisonment, citing treatment he has received at the Hamilton County Jail.

Morris' family declined to comment afterward.

Suffering from Asperger's syndrome is "not an adequate excuse" for Morris' actions, said a woman whose family's home he burglarized and burned in 2006.

Morris pleaded guilty that year to arson and aggravated burglary at Megan Bartlett's family's home on Prospect Church Road. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor harassment and misdemeanor stalking, according to court records.

Bartlett rode the bus with Morris in junior high school, she said during the hearing. Morris would board the bus after Bartlett, so how he found her home "remains a mystery," she read from a handwritten statement during the hearing.

"To relive this is a little rough. I don't like to think of when I was the victim," Bartlett said during a 10-minute recess.

Bartlett and her grandmother, Pat Bartlett, have been to every court hearing, she said.

"Every time there's a hearing, we make sure we're there to see that justice is served," Pat Bartlett said at the hearing.

Contact staff writer Adam Poulisse at 423-757-6592 or apoulisse@timesfreepress.com.